From Flint is a 24-minute film about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Water crisis is typically a term we here related to undeveloped countries and arid regions of the world. But here in the U.S. a city is undergoing a very serious issue as a result of failed government. Many of us have heard of the water quality issues in Flint over the last couple years through media and news, but From Flint brings us into the city with personal accounts from residents and individuals involved. 5 graduate students from Michigan State University created this 2016 documentary as their thesis project. The crew wanted to tell the story of the Flint water crisis through the eyes of the residents and people on the ground experiencing it first hand.
According to accounts Michigan had the one of the best water treatment systems in the world. Detroit was providing Flint with some of the cleanest drinking water in the world for 50 years. When negotiating the new contracts for this supply the city of Flint decided they wanted the new water coming from Lake Huron. This stance complicated negotiations to the point where Detroit and Flint cancelled their contract in 2013. In April of 2014 is when the water for Flint was effectively changed from treated Detroit water to untreated Flint River water.
Once untreated Flint River water was flowing through degrading pipes, lead became a contaminant. The corrosive nature of the untreated water led to dirty and contaminated liquid right out of the faucet. Without too much explanation the film transitions into personal accounts of residents and the effects of this dirty water. Some more information could help clarify why the transition occurred and how exactly the water became contaminated, but the issue of a city fighting for its quality of life comes down to the people.
Lead is a serious contaminant, according to Kathi Horton, the President of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which affects the behavioral and cognitive development of children throughout their life. Multiple individuals give accounts stating their children were tested positive for high levels of lead and how the water has affected them. A serious aspect of high lead levels in the body is affects not noticeable for years after. So even after the water issue is solved, Flint will still have a lead issue.
Through a series of interviews and footage we see accounts where people are using bottled water to bath, cook with, and use for all purposes. The Flint Kids Fund was developed to help this water crisis issue for the development of young kids in the city. They received donations from such far away places as Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, and France. How does it get to the point in a local or state government that a city needs donations from such distant places to help deal with a basic quality of life issue like safe water?
A variety of personal accounts and footage of rallies connects the audience with the community of Flint. This issue brought different groups closer together despite things like race, religion, and other differentiating factors. Flint is a city of over 100,000 people with a predominantly black community and 41% of the population below the poverty line. The film questions whether issues like race and economic status have prevented the crisis from being solved.
The local and state governments also appeared to be complacent about the issue. The department in charge of the switch did not maintain the anti-corrosive treatment of the water, despite litigation stating it needed to. On top of this complacency they attempted to cover it up, although we are unclear exactly how. As the film concludes we learn 3 people were charged with crimes of tampering, neglect, misconduct, and conspiracy.
From Flint certainly achieves the crew’s goal of giving a voice to locals on the ground and showing the audience what the actual crisis was like to live with. However, certain areas like the fallout of the negotiations, how the lead poisoning is happening, and the solutions towards the end could use more coverage. You will come away with a more authentic understanding of the situation, instead of broad media coverage. This is another example of how story telling and film can bring light into a dark area and give more weight to the information we receive.
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Tags: Flint Water Crisis, From Flint, lead poisoning, Michigan State University, pollution, water pollution