The word, “water crisis” is a term heard far too often in the Global South. From rising temperatures running our freshwater resources dry, to human-induced water pollution and contamination, there are evidently many factors at play. Now with our population skyrocketing, the most underprivileged will be the most vulnerable. But, who would have thought that water crises would occur in the Western world where freshwater resources still remain accessible--say, Flint, Michigan?
In their 2016 documentary, students of Michigan State University follow the story of this “poisoned city” where aging pipelines have caused lead to seep into the community’s water supply. Despite the deleterious health effects that may follow, the government has failed to act quickly. Protesters in the form of local organizations and affected families have come together to fight for what is essentially a human right.
This documentary is an outstanding accomplishment by the developers of this film and the actors involved in terms of shedding light on a serious problem that ought to be addressed immediately. Not only does it capture a relevant and current problem, but it also explores further the social and political complexities nested within public versus state disputes. What is seemingly a fight for safe, drinkable water is also a means to expose the inequalities in race and socioeconomic status that persist in Flint. By involving the voices of harmed citizens, the documentary fully captures the sense of distress that worried mothers, among other residents, endure today. From Flint is a remarkable collection of once-underrepresented voices that can now be heard by policymakers at all levels of government.
From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City, a film by Elise Conklin & Liv Larsen
From Flint goes beyond the news headlines to spotlight the impact of the devastating water contamination crisis on the people of Flint, Michigan. The film highlights the stories of residents who were personally injured, along with the work of local organizations and individuals that rallied to support them.
Flint is a city of 100,000 people, with 41% living below the poverty line and an African-American majority. The city switched in 2014 to water from the polluted Flint River to save money, but the new water supply wasn't properly treated. Lead from aging lines leached into the local water supply, along with coliform bacteria and other contaminants, creating a serious health crisis. Up to 12,000 children may have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. Some residents were also forced to abandon their homes without warning.
Residents describe their personal struggles, including the serious medical issues that afflicted them -- seizures, rashes, problems affecting newborns and young children -- as well as their anger over a government that continually failed to protect them. The citizens of Flint make their displeasure known through emotional testimonies to officials about the impact on children and families, as well as through large, peaceful protests. The film also highlights how residents and local organizations have come together to help and support one another through the crisis.
Ultimately, the Flint water crisis was a failure of government at every level, with important lessons for other cities and towns. From Flint concludes by noting the indictment of several officials responsible for the crisis and its mismanagement, though the impact of their actions irreversibly linger.