By: Kendra Ray Stones Detroit Contributor
It’s been nearly two years since the release of “Detroit Lives” – the documentary featuring Johnny Knoxville as he cruises the streets of Detroit under the direction of Palladium Boots. Although the video features interviews with business owners, artisans, and community figures in an attempt to showcase positive movements within the city, the project is receiving mixed responses from the city’s community.
Surprisingly, this footwear company parallels a story shared by many of Detroit’s earliest factories. Founded in 1920, Palladium’s core expertise was in creating durable tires for European air crafts. Like some factories of the Motor City, once World War II ended they had to find a new way to utilize their talents. Thus, Palladium’s famous “Pampa boot” was developed in 1947 in France, becoming the preferred footwear of the French Foreign Legion. Over sixty years later, they’ve moved from runways on the airstrip to the fashion world.
Detroit, along with many other “raw” or “misunderstood” locations around the world, have been the focus of Palladium’s documentaries which highlight artisan and underground movements in their respective towns. With the company’s claim that, “Palladium boots are ready to help you explore your street, your city, or the world” it’s easy to assume that these shoe coverings are sufficient for urban exploration (and product placement).
The After Effect
The documentary does well to acknowledge mainstream media’s shortcomings when it comes to the city’s image, along with the entrepreneurs who are making the most of the “urban decay”. However, due to the delivery of the information, the gritty images, and aggressive (yet selective) approach, viewers are debating whether “Detroit Lives” has helped or hindered its namesake.
It’s difficult to say if the documentary was produced out of empathy and compassion, or if it was marketing tactic taking advantage of the industrial underdog we know as home. Perhaps the shared French roots caused Palladium to feel akin to the “Paris of the North”. It’s also hard to determine if Knoxville is actually sporting Palladium boots in the short film, but if the company is as savvy as it appears to be, they’d surely take advantage of product placement in their own production.
Personally, I worked with a publication whose team reached out to Palladium to try to get feedback on their take on Detroit. We received nothing but a run-around for nearly four months from their representatives. Abroad, there is a lack of follow up and press releases on the production’s experience, purpose, or even a vague explanation of why they came, they saw, and then left with no trace.
Were the minds behind “Detroit Lives” influenced by the other productions who came to the state only because of the former film tax incentive? Did they falsely glorify the fallen, the struggling, and the hopeful for their own charitable reputation and promotional agenda – or was this a legitimate philanthropic attempt to showcase a brighter side of the “D”?
Watch it and you decide; meanwhile, the Youtube user comments will have to suffice as an explanation.
Site sourced: www.palladiumboots.com/