On an unassuming corner in Fort Pierce, Florida, it’s easy to miss the insidious war that’s raging. But on each side of 12th and Delaware, soldiers stand locked in a passionate battle. On one side of the street sits an abortion clinic. On the other, a pro-life outfit often mistaken for the clinic it seeks to shut down.
Using skillful cinema-vérité observation that allows us to draw our own conclusions, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the directors of Jesus Camp, expose the molten core of America’s most intractable conflict. As the pro-life volunteers paint a terrifying portrait of abortion to their clients, across the street, the staff members at the clinic fear for their doctors' lives and fiercely protect the right of their clients to choose. Shot in the year when abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church, the film makes these fears palpable. Meanwhile, women in need become pawns in a vicious ideological war with no end in sight.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady guide viewers into hidden worlds fraught with contradiction and emotion, using keen observational verite storytelling to elucidate singular characters in diverse collectives. They’ve transported us to a summer camp where impressionable youths are indoctrinated with the word of God, to a Florida street corner where pro-lifers and pro-choicers wage war, to a hollow Detroit struggling to survive in the post-industrial age, to a Brooklyn enclave where three Hasidic Jews decide to leave their faith. Ewing and Grady have directed ten feature documentaries since 2005, attracting an Oscar nomination for Jesus Camp, a Peabody Award for 12th & Delaware, and an Emmy for Detropia, and their critically-acclaimed, artful, yet accessible films—like this year’s One of Us, have contributed to documentary’s rising popularity.
“Detropia, a lyrical film about the destruction of a great American city, is the most moving documentary I’ve seen in years. The city is Detroit, and the film, made by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (who is a native), is both an ardent love letter to past vitality and a grateful salute to those who remain in place—the survivors, utterly without illusions, who refuse to leave. Detropia has its share of forlorn images: office buildings with empty eye sockets for windows; idle, rotting factories, with fantastic networks of chutes, pipes, and stacks; a lone lit tavern on a dark block. Yet the filmmakers are so attuned to color and to shape that I was amazed by the handsomeness of what I was seeing. I’m not being perverse: this is a beautiful film.”
—David Denby, The New Yorker, 2012