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Lean, Mean And Green: A Global Message That There Is Hope For Post-Industrial Places

September 13, 2013
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Many in the United States takes the mindset of “at least we are not Detroit.” The bankruptcy and all the wonderful news being splashed across the airwaves paint Detroit as a post-industrial wasteland of population loss, decline, blight, joblessness, pollution and despair. But Detroit “is” a post-industrial city.

But post-industrial shouldn’t conjure up images of abandoned playgrounds, where rusty swing sets beg for the attention of a child, nor the sight of foreclosed homes and bricked up manufacturing plants, but should be a cause for solution, and a focal point for remedy.

Let us remember Detroit is not alone, we are not the only ones working tirelessly to re-imagine our city and look towards a bright and diverse future.

On September 25 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the DIA, the film “Lean Mean & Green” will be premiering and showcasing some of the many solutions being offered and acted upon in post industrial cities. It is inspired by Detroit Free Press Writer John Gallagher’s book “Reimagining Detroit.” The film shows not only Detroit, but Youngstown Ohio, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, the Ruhr Valley in Germany, Bern, Switzerland, and Torino, Italy.

All of the aforementioned cities are facing similar hurdles as Detroit. The Ruhr Valley in Germany is turning industrial blight into parks and climbing walls, and has invested billions into rehabilitating rivers, Torino is becoming the bellwether for post industrial recovery and Bern is using a broad spectrum of solutions to bring itself back to relevancy. The same goes for Youngstown and Philadelphia.

The local filmmaker, producer and director of the film, Carrie LeZotte graciously invited us into her amazing loft right in Lafayette Park recently to discuss the film, her past, and some of the trials and tribulations of this process.

“One of the reasons I started this project two years ago (was that) I was getting tired of seeing what people were doing from the outside. They would go to the train station and think that they’d been here,” LeZotte said.

CSandS Lanscape ParkOne of the pitfalls of making your own film is fundraising. During the filming LeZotte came up just a little bit under her original goal, and wasn’t sure if she would be able to shoot the locations in Europe. No problem. A shorter shooting schedule, and going without a pay for a little while. Once you are far enough into a project there is no turning back.

“John’s book inspired it. He took everything that had already been going on as far as solutions and said hey, here is clear way at looking at solutions for shrinking cities,” LeZotte continued.

A lifelong Detroiter, Michigan State film school grad, and also did corporate film work with Comerica Bank. When Comerica moved their headquarters to Dallas, LeZotte faced the same question many talented Detroiters face. Do I stay or do I go?

Early on in her career she made some inroads into the Hollywood film scene and after having an interview with a lady awash in movie scripts, waist deep to the point of barricading her into the small office, and telling LeZotte she had to send a dress for Julia Roberts essentially around the world for approval, LeZotte decided to stick it out in Detroit (and gladly).

She started One Of Us Films, and has decided to make Detroit home for good. She has decided to create work that changes the conversation. Detroit and the other cities in the film are offering up world class solutions to post industrial problems. With hard work, ingenuity, community outreach and vision the post industrial landscape can transform from a wasteland to a canvas for new beginnings. European cities are really taking the transformation seriously.

“It takes a great deal of vision to have something that is billions of Euros over a time span of 30 years. Germany has really led the way on how to transform a region,” LeZotte said.

Throughout the film moviegoers will be greeted with not only interesting and oft overlooked landscapes, but some of the many solutions being pursued by and for these cities. Urban gardens, murals, community art, neighborhood uplift programs, using corner stores as hubs of rejuvenation, and environmental success stories are all some of the many exciting things being implemented in the post industrial landscape.

In terms of the near future LeZotte hopes to get her film onto PBS, because that is one channel that every home with a television has access to. Whether someone has a subscription to cable or not, they have PBS. Then she hopes to gain access to some film festivals specifically environmental ones with a lean towards sustainability, then who knows.

LeZotte, like myself, hopes that audiences embrace this reality, and find the film a spark for action. It is easy for people living, working and playing in the post industrial city to lend a sympathetic ear to this concept. The proof will be in the pudding and hopefully wider audiences realize that these stories are the reality we are all operating in.. and going forward together in this post industrial landscape.

You can offer your support on Kickstarter, and by simply coming out September 25th to the Detroit Institute of Arts to celebrate this labor of love and peek into the resilience of the human spirit.