Detroit Bankruptcy Documentary Billed With DC Auto Show

Photograph by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg

The General Motors Co. building in Detroit.

While auto lobbyists and executives are living high on the hog at parties next week on the night before the Washington Auto Show, critics of the industry’s government bailout will be screening a new film around the corner.

Ben Howe says he chose to premiere the film he directed and produced the night of Jan. 21  in downtown Washington intentionally as a counterpoint to the auto industry being in town for the next show on the 2014 circuit.

The trailer for “Bankrupt: How Cronyism and Corruption Brought Down Detroit,” begins with a vintage TV announcer intoning “Detroit is enjoying its finest hour. There is a renaissance and rebirth in the city,” as images of abandoned houses, schools and factories scroll by.

Within the industry, part of the celebration is because the U.S. Treasury, which in 2009 bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, sold the last of its automaker stock late last year. The government is just as happy to have washed its hands of being GM shareholders, with Vice President Joe Biden touring the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today with a message of how the Obama administration saved U.S. automakers.

Not so fast, says Howe, who links the corporate bailout with the current bankruptcy of the city of Detroit, where about 700,000 people rattle around a metropolis built for 2 million.

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