In today's world of politicized media and 24-hour news cycles, the Flint Water Crisis doesn't just seem like yesterday's news, but ancient history. But for the people of Flint, this humanitarian disaster, this government-created atrocity, is not just still ongoing, but has in fact affected the lives of a generation of Flint children and residents.
There have been a handful of documentaries about the Flint Water Crisis over the past several years, but none of them quite as cohesive or quite as VITAL as Anthony Baxter's "Flint: Who Can You Trust?" The filmmaker approaches the topic from a brilliantly effective angle, not only spelling out the timeline and explaining the situation in easy-to-understand ways, but also giving the viewers a taste of the confusion and and chaos that the Flint residents have and are still experiencing today.
Who can you trust? As it turns out, nobody, on either side of the political spectrum.
Baxter arrived in Flint, Michigan back in 2015, even before the lead-tainted water supply story became big international news. Then-Governor Rick Snyder - as a cost-saving effort - decided to switch Flint's water supply to the nearby Flint River, instead of from Lake Huron where it had been getting its water for several decades. The switch proved deadly to many Flint residents. Lead-poisoning and its effects are irreversible, and include anemia, skin rashes, brain and kidney damage and other long-lasting health problems. Even though the water was beginning to corrode car parts at the nearby auto plant, residents were told that their water was safe.
It wasn't until a scientist from Virginia Tech, Marc Edwards, showed up on the scene and found the toxic levels of lead in the Flint water supply, that it made national headlines. Facing well-deserved outrage from the citizens and from activists around the world, Gov. Snyder seemed unresponsive to making much-needed changes or providing real relief. At one point, residents were given filters and told that when used, the water would be safe. Once again, it was not and this proved to be another falsehood.
The film balances explaining what occurred and when, with looks at real-life families that have been needlessly impacted. Mothers empty water bottles into pots, to heat up for a shower. A family uses baby wipes as their means of self-cleanliness. Children, once curious and energetic, have been rendered lethargic. While bottled water is given out for free, residents have to line up and wait sometimes for several hours. Elderly people are shown having to haul these cases water back to their homes, by themselves.
This is DAILY LIVE in Flint.
And all of this is tragic enough, but when you consider the history and downfall of Flint in the past century, it becomes unbearably painful.
Why don't residents leave, and why even pay for water at their homes when they can't use it? For fear of parents' losing custody of their children, since authorities could separate kids from their moms and dads if they find out that there is no running water in the home.
A non-profit group known as Water Defense and led by actor Mark Ruffalo, came in to help the people of Flint. One of their top experts, Scott Smith, became a sort of "man of the people," pointing out that there were other high-levels of toxic particles found in the Flint water supply.
Like a Hollywood movie, "Flint: Who Can You Trust?" provides more than a few twists. Both of these men, Edwards and Smith (and Ruffalo to a certain extent) end up not being the exact people that we first thought them to be. In a sea of misinformation - and especially when people are suffering - we all seek out stability and try to identify who and in what we can place our trust in. Time and time again, the Flint residents have the wool pulled over their eyes.
Off-camera, the documentary ran into a major twist as well. Alec Baldwin narrates the film and appears on-screen in the film's final act, having believed in the project and donating his time and efforts for free. You MIGHT have heard that Baldwin is in a swirl of controversy right now over the shooting death of cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on the set of Baldwin's film "Rust." This incident happened after Baldwin's time on the Flint documentary, and forced filmmaker Anthony Baxter to strongly consider other options for his film. Baldwin's presence may cause a distraction - and quite plainly it does distract - but not enough in my opinion to impact the film's important overriding purpose.
The main takeaway from "Flint: Who Can You Trust?" is that this is not history, it is the present. The water crisis is still ongoing. How this could happen in America is one of the tragedies of our time. How no one has been held accountable and how the people of Flint continue to suffer is simply unimaginable and immoral.
For more information or to see how you may be able to help, visit www.flintdocumentary.com.
I see a lot of documentaries about a lot of important subjects, but this one has led me to wanting to make a real difference. It is important that we continue to shine light on the darkness surrounding Flint, and to lift these people up. They deserve nothing less than to put their trust in something, and for once, have it be worth a damn.
[BELOW: See an extended interview I had with filmmaker Anthony Baxter, addressing everything from his thoughts on making the film, to Alec Baldwin's involvement, to ways that you can help make a difference.]
Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes.
Directed by Anthony Baxter ("You've Been Trumped," "A Dangerous Game").
"Flint: Who Can You Trust?" is in limited theatrical release on Friday, May 6th, 2022 and available On Demand later in May 2022.
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