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Last Days of Chinatown

A Film by Nicole MacDonald

65 minutes

Scene Selection • Closed Captioned

Grades 9 - Adult
Item #:LDC-1153

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Colleges, Businesses, Other Institutions - $250
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For the past century, Detroit's Cass Corridor was one of the roughest areas in the city. Known as a center of drugs and prostitution, this former red-light district was alternatively known as "Fire Alley," an acknowledgment of its status as the arson capital of Michigan. In 1963, the city's final incarnation of Chinatown was established in the Corridor, but by the end of the 1980s that particular enclave came to its demise. The Cass Corridor is experiencing a complete overhaul, as one of the largest sports developments in the country engulfs the area.

Beginning with an observational view of current-day residents, some who have lived in the area for most of their lives, Last Days of Chinatown is a deft and engrossing meditation on the history, present, and future of the area. With half the neighborhood burned or demolished, the film documents who and what remains in the long beleaguered Corridor. We hear their stories of survival, and learn how and why longtime residents are being forced to the margins of the city as rampant development redefines the area. 

Last Days of Chinatown then illustrates in gripping detail the process by which the Cass Corridor has been bought up during a years-long scheme to build a 45-block wide sports-entertainment complex. As new businesses and residents move in, and Detroit's corporate welfare for billionaires Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch becomes more apparent, many begin to question just who all of the new investment is intended to benefit.

Long home to the poor and disenfranchised as well as to the artists and visionaries of the city, the area has now been rebranded as "Midtown." Last Days of Chinatown chronicles an emblematic example of the nationwide trend of urban gentrification and shows how it can be possible to erase a place, as well as its people and history, as another is constructed over its remains.

FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "Things do change and the question is why. I suppose there is a larger question as to what sense it makes, all this change in the name of so-called progress. i wonder how Detroit compares to other cities in the U.S. and around the world, in this regard. Why are we always building and knocking down and moving and building again? Is that a logical way to live? Or is there something to be said for staying put? Maybe we would have more time to pursue more noble causes if we weren't always trying to tear down and build up."
-Nicole MacDonald
Last Days of Chinatown

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