White Flight

Video installation
40′ loop
8 x 3 meter projection
2 projectors and 2 monitors, 4-channel video, 4-channel sound


White Flight tells the history of the Black-Power movement in the USA. It combines historical black-and-white documentary material from the 60s with newly filmed color footage depicting some of the same places and protagonists from that era.

The film is shot in Detroit, the symbol of post-war American industrial prosperity and home to an ever-stronger Black middle class. However, in the late 60s Detroit had become the scene of the worst racial unrest in US history. Large sections of the city were destroyed in violent clashes between military forces and the Black population, causing the flight of the white population to the suburbs — the white flight, as in the title — and therefore a rapid deterioration of downtown areas.

In 1968, Mats Hjelm’s father Lars, a renowned documentary filmmaker and journalist, filmed the racial unrest in Detroit and some of the protagonists of the Black Panther party. Thirty years later, Hjelm revisits his father’s journey after his death in 1996. White Flight is Hjelm’s way of artistically taking leave from a man whose images were always present in the media but who, as a consequence, spent little time at home.

The result is an incisive preoccupation with the question as to how the past continues to affect the present — or if it is lost forever. 

White Flight is the first part of a trilogy, see also:

Man to Man 

Kap Atlantis



®2021 Mats Hjelm Studio