Telling a story that makes no sense and simply poses questions: right at the start of Motorcity, what the border official accuses the filmmaker of not only equips the audience with reading instructions of sorts, but at the same time, formulates one of the essential features that makes it possible to distinguish a documentary from other forms of non-fictional depiction. Rather than uncovering hitherto hidden truths that make sense, the documentary is concerned with the confrontation of two different capabilities: the sensual and the intelligible, that is, the power of recording, with which the camera indiscriminately captures everything that appears before its lens, and the power of montage, which transforms what has been recorded to a system of interrelated symbols.
For Motorcity, the choice of a documentary process is, of course, apparent from its subject, drag racing. How else would it be possible to capture both the fascination, and also what is in need of explanation with regard to this event, which since the 1950s has captured popular imagination in the U.S., yet never advanced beyond a niche sport in Europe. Against the backdrop of this cultural difference, Motorcity poses a field of questions that is accordingly vast, ranging from the fundamental (what is the challenge of moving a quarter of a mile in a few seconds, unleashing forces that can hardly be controlled?) to the historically determined (what does drag racing mean in a city like Detroit, which is likewise the cradle of the American automobile industry and Fordism?) to the mythological (couldn’t the art of drag racing also be considered a distant descendant of American expansionism?). In the end, in place of an answer is a counter image to the straightforwardness of acceleration races: that of a rally car swerving over mountain roads. (Vrääth Öhner)
Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt