‘Packard: The Last Shift’


“Packard: The Last Shift” will screen opening night of Freep Film Festival, Thursday, March 20. Doors and VIP reception at 6:30 p.m.; film at 8 p.m. $10 general admission. $25 for premium reserved VIP seats, which includes access to reception from 6:30-8 p.m. Link to tickets below, or call 800-745-3000. Avoid ticket surcharges by purchasing at the Fillmore Detroit or St. Andrew’s Hall box offices

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After the film: A panel discussion will include new Packard Plant owner Fernando Palazuelo; Roger M. Luksik, president of the Packard Motor Car Foundation; Dan Kinkead, director of projects for Detroit Future City Implementation Office, and “Packard: The Last Shift” director Brian Kaufman. It will be moderated by Free Press business columnist Tom Walsh.

Year: 2014
Minutes: About 70 minutes
Director: Brian Kaufman
Writer: Brian Kaufman
Cinematographer: Brian Kaufman
Editor: Brian Kaufman
Producer: Kathy Kieliszewski
Production company: Detroit Free Press
Not rated; some language

“Packard: The Last Shift” chronicles the storied past and unknown future of the iconic Detroit structure, which began with the auto business in 1903 and has more recently become Ground Zero for Rust Belt blight. Since 2010, Free Press photographer Brian Kaufman has been documenting the building, which runs in a long 40-acre strip on Detroit’s east side. Architects and historians talk with admiration about the Albert Kahn-designed structures that produced every part of the luxury automobile that one historian calls “the Escalade of its day.” The documentary also interviews female workers from the ‘40s who talk about the Packard’s retooling for the war effort and executives who ran the business until Packard ceased production in 1958. The building’s decline over the past half-century is shown through tenants who used the Packard for storage and light industry, legal wrangling with the City of Detroit over its ownership, techno music pioneers who held historic raves there in the 1990s and a new owner who wants to use what’s left of it after scrappers have mined metal down to the foundation in some buildings. The film uses historic footage, photographs and new images by Kaufman, who finds surprising patches of beauty and hope in the decay.

Brian Kaufman

Brian Kaufman

Director: California-born Brian Kaufman studied photography at California’s Brooks Institute of Photography. He has been producing video content for the Detroit Free Press since 2010.


Fernando Palazuelo, center, new owner of the Packard Plant in Detroit, looks south as neighborhood resident Allan Hill points to the downtown skyline on  Jan. 12.

Fernando Palazuelo, center, new owner of the Packard Plant in Detroit, looks south as neighborhood resident Allan Hill points to the downtown skyline on Jan. 12.

A television sits atop a column in a Packard building in 2010. Free Press-produced film “Packard: The Last Shift” is primarily the work of three-time Emmy winner Brian Kaufman.

A television sits atop a column in a Packard building in 2010. Free Press-produced film “Packard: The Last Shift” is primarily the work of three-time Emmy winner Brian Kaufman.