Detroit Film Theatre

FREEP FILM FESTIVAL: Do You Think a Job is the Answer?

Friday, March 21, 2014

7:00 PM

(US/1969 – Directed by Gary Gilson)

For five months in late 1968 and early 1969, TV news reporter and documentarian Gary Gilson shot an estimated 20 hours of 16mm footage focused on racial, social and economic tension in Detroit. The resulting special culled from this material was broadcast only once nationally, 45 years ago this month, on Public Television. The title Do You Think a Job is the Answer?comes from a quote he received from one of his many subjects, mostly African-American, who questioned if automotive jobs would really solve the problem of poverty, unemployment and racism in the city. The movie goes inside the radio booth with Martha Jean (The Queen) Steinberg; takes a bus ride with disgruntled workers en route to automotive work in Pontiac, and celebrates the Tigers’ World Series win in 1968. It looks on as black DRUM activists try to disrupt car production; scouts a new Smokey or Diana at a Pershing High talent competition, and listens in on a frank race discussion between black and white officials (including a young John Conyers). A precursor to news magazine shows like 60 Minutes, the film presents an invaluable, fascinatingly fly-on-the-wall look at Detroit life in the wake of the 1967 riots — along with an inescapable feeling that many of the issues discussed remain relevant today. (Note: The film includes some of-the-times language that today would be considered politically incorrect. There are also a few instances where racial epithets are used.)

After the film: Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson will lead a conversation on issues raised by the movie. Panelists will include Tonya Allen, president of the Skillman Foundation; Pamela J. Moore, president and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., and William F. Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE.