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Showing ‘Detroit’ in Detroit

Directors in recent years have returned to the unique American places they make movies about. Ava DuVernay had a celebrated visit to Selma, and Alexander Payne brought “Nebraska” back to the people of the small towns he both tweaked and championed.

But Kathryn Bigelow’s return Tuesday night to show her movie “Detroit” in Detroit contained a special aura even by these standards.

In limited release beginning Friday, “Detroit” centers on a grim instance of police brutality amid the 1967 Detroit civil unrest, taking place 50 years ago this week. In both the movie and real life, three young black men ended up dead at the Algiers Motel after a night of terror enacted by white members of the Detroit Police Department.

Bigelow, director of “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” had spent months researching and prepping the movie in the Motor City before reluctantly moving the production to Massachusetts for tax reasons. But the city continued to hold a particular place in her heart.

As she stood before the screening at the front of the Fox Theatre, at more than 5,000 seats the largest of the extant 1920s movie palaces, she said, “It’s an extraordinary honor to be on [this] stage,” in front of the people of Detroit.

The feeling was mutual.

For the previous several days, the city had been marking the unrest and the incident with a number of events and ceremonies. The Fox event was a culmination of sorts.

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