“Do You Think a Job is the Answer?” will screen at 7 p.m. Friday, March 21 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Tickets are $10.
After the film: Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson will lead a conversation on issues raised by the movie. Panelists will include producer-director Gary Gilson; 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.
Running time: 66 minutes
Director: Gary Gilson
Writer: Gary Gilson
Producer: Gary Gilson
Supervising producer: Dave Dugan
Cameramen: Abbot Mills and Leland Kenower
Production company: Public Broadcast Laboratory
Broadcast: March, 1969
Rating: Unrated; includes of-the-times language, a few instances of racial epithets, serious subject matter
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 on Public Television 45 years ago and likely has been screened only one time since. 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 School talent competition and listens in on a frank race discussion between white and black 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.)
About the director: Producer/director Gary Gilson worked in New York commercial and public TV in the 1960s and created episodes for the Public Broadcast Laboratory, a pioneering newsmagazine program. A graduate of Columbia University, he also taught there for several years, running a summer program for minority journalists between 1969 to 1973. He currently resides in Minneapolis.