In a rapidly changing America where mass inequality and dwindling opportunity have devastated the black working class, three Detroit men must fight to build something lasting for themselves and future generations. Street Fighting Men, which celebrates dogged persistence in the face of overwhelming adversity, takes a deep, observational dive into the lives of three African American men: retired cop Jack Rabbit, who continues to patrol the mean streets as a citizen; Deris, who has made bad choices in the past but wants to further his education and serve as a role model for his baby daughter; and Luke, who labors mightily as he rehabs a dilapidated house while putting together a meager living. Shot over three years in the neighborhoods of Detroit, Street Fighting Men is a story of hard work, faith and manhood in a community left to fend for itself.


“Here comes trouble.”




While the national conversation has touted Detroit’s “recovery,” the precarious situation of life-long residents in the neighborhoods of Detroit has not improved since filming began in 2010. From a February 2017 report in CityLab: "Detroit is two very different cities – one white and privileged, the other black and deprived. Large-scale purchases, refurbishments and upgrades in Downtown/Midtown by developer and Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert contrast sharply with the decay that continues to dominate post-apocalyptic neighborhood landscapes, inhabited by long-time Detroit residents who are not sharing in the city’s growing but highly limited prosperity."

In an article for Guernica magazine, John Patrick Leary of Wayne State University categorized three types of stories that are emerging in the public imagination of Detroit: Detroit as ruin porn, Detroit as utopian possibility, and Detroit as metonym for the American condition. However, as Detroit blogger Willy Staley points out, “…the neighborhoods of Detroit tell the real story.”

Street Fighting Men takes place in the neighborhoods, where the real fight over Detroit’s future is being waged every day. For the people who live here, Detroit is not a blank slate, it is their home -- where they have invested their lives, families, and memories.


“I keep getting all these second chances.”




Street Fighting Men is a cinematic, character-driven nonfiction narrative that speaks to the challenges of our times. Inspired by the approach of early vérité pioneers, Andrew James spent over three years filming in Detroit capturing the stories as they unfolded. With an emphasis on shot, mood, tone and character, the film is designed to be rich and experiential. Borrowing from the visual language and philosophy of neorealism, and featuring a beautiful score by Detroit-based musician, Shigeto, Street Fighting Men is an emotionally powerful, visually compelling journey into the forgotten neighborhoods of Detroit; a place that embodies the greatest challenges we still face as a country.


“I should not be over there.”




"Painful but honest depiction of black life in urban Detroit, featuring multifaceted men striving against the odds. A portrait of black resilience and perseverance — without sentimentality — that stands in stark contrast to the one-dimensional uplifting stories of transformation in Detroit, but still offers a way out of the dark."
- April Wolfe, Film Critic & Writer

“An incisive, intimate and enlightening cinematic gaze on Detroit, Street Fighting Men triumphs as an authentic story of resilience in a neighborhood that will never settle for defeat.”
- Les Roka, The Utah Review

"Street Fighting Men embraces some heavy subject matter but it shows the natural ebb and flow that exists in people’s lives [ . . . ] James’ camera captures some moments of natural levity, some deeply touching moments, and some moments of real horror and sadness [ . . . ] If Street Fighting Men comes to theater near you it is worth your time to check out, especially if you liked Moonlight last year."
- Sarah Brinks, Battleship Pretension

"While a documentary, it comes across as a fictionalized drama, the characters searingly captured in such a natural way, oblivious to the camera."
- Ron Stang, Windsor Detroit Film

"This is the sort of documentary that needs genuine trust between filmmaker and subject in order to get made [ . . . ] each person is one man against a system much larger than him and mostly indifferent to his struggle. They can't do it alone, and there's not that many people who have their backs."
- Jay Seaver, eFilmCritic

"Wednesday, we continue our Through the Lens series with a poignant film about the devastating impact economic inequality has had on America’s black working class. Utah-based filmmaker Andrew James’s documentary Street Fighting Men follows the lives of three men in Detroit as they struggle to build something lasting for themselves and future generations. James will join us to tell their stories of fighting to find steady ground in a community wracked by crime, violence, and dwindling opportunity."
- Doug Fabrizio, Radio West

"Shot between 2010 and 2014, “Street Fighting Men” follows three men of different generations that James believes represent “the past, present and future of Detroit and its neighborhoods.” It is presented in the observational style of filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, which means that there are no title cards, no narration, and that the audience is expected to provide the context."
- John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press