"White Flight" is an artwork by Mats Hjelm that tells the story of the Black Power movement in America. "White Flight" takes place in Detroit, a city the during the post war period was the flagship of American industry and home to a comparatively strong black middle class. During the late ླྀ's, Detroit became the arena for the worst race riots in the history of the United States and large parts of the city lay in ruins after violent clashes between the military and blacks. The white residents moved out to the suburbs leaving the inner city to fall into decay. In the world of fiction, the film Robocop was set in Detroit. Today the city is ranked as the third most violent city in America.
In 1967 Lars Hjelm, Mats' father, filmed the race riots and Black Power leaders in Detroit. 30 years later Mats Hjelm has repeated the journey. Lars Hjelm passed away last summer after a long illness, and thus the work is also an artistic farewell to Mats' father.
In "White Flight" documentary material from the 60's is interwoven with the newly filmed material, which amongst other things includes interviews with the former leading figures: 'We've lost two generations of black men', one of them says, and reflects back over the last 30 years.
"White Flight" is a refined form of documentary film. New digital technology makes a non-linear narrative possible, something Mats Hjelm has worked with in recent years. In "White Flight" there is no determined beginning or end. Four different film sequences loop in random, engaging each other. New and old, ཿ and ྜྷ, meet each other in new combinations. Depending on the context the same sequence can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The non-linear narrative gives structure to "White Flight", but above all, the work is about the city as the centre for ethnic and economic contrasts. About change, hopes and about one generation's legacy to another.
Many thanks to Jesper Johansson whose contribution was indispensable to the feasibility of the project. I would also like to thank Kevin Smith and Marco Garcia for their invaluable assistance on location in Detroit.
Karina Ericsson Wärn