Flint’s Water – and Honesty – Crisis
In addition to these plot points, Flint: Who can you trust? depicts the activism of the city’s beleaguered residents in response to what appears to be a government-triggered disaster. As part of this activism, residents appeal for outside support in the form of scientists, so-called “experts” and celebrities. However, it’s proving to be a combustible mix amid numerous changing sides, charges, civil lawsuits and criminal cases, as Flint’s water quality remains the subject of fierce debate and human beings suffer en masse.
The essential nature of water to life is at the heart of this saga. Flint: Who can you trust? recounts that in their efforts to run the Michigan government like a business, a deadly decision was made by then Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP cohorts: to switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost reduction measure. But, as Flint activist Melissa Mays argues in the film, “Flint River is a dumping ground,” full of polluted water.
Unlike water from the Great Lakes, this river water is so corrosive that it causes particles from the city’s lead pipes to leach into the water supply, wreaking havoc on Flint’s occupants. In great detail, Baxter’s survey cameras show the hardship caused by the contaminated water and suffered by the town’s residents. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is sounding the alarm, saying hearing about such high levels of toxicity is freaking out “paediatricians…”.
Physically, contaminated water seems to cause rashes that resemble chickenpox, deafness, etc. It also led to the largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States. But the impacts go beyond the physical. According to the doc, reading levels drop by about 50% in school children, who also experience behavioral changes, going abruptly from hyper-energetic to lethargic. The mass suffering is also causing high levels of anguish and anxiety as property prices fall precipitously, preventing desperate homeowners from selling their homes and moving out. The majority of Flint’s citizens are African Americans, and the urgent situation looks like another experiment in environmental racism.
Prior to the water disaster, Flint – once known as “Vehicle City” – had already been devastated by General Motors’ for-profit decisions to shut down a city’s economic lifeline which, according to the film , “was Silicon Valley”. and “the wealthiest city in America” before car factories were closed and relocated to countries with lower paid labor. The heroic mass strike of 1936, when proletarians staged a sit-down strike at Flint’s auto factories, is missing from the film’s montage of Flint’s history using archival footage and news. (Their legacy ripples through the fiery Flint activists of today.)
Baxter’s shots of condemned homes in a town that now has “America’s highest violent crime rate” recall another documentary by Flint’s most famous local hero, Michael Moore, whose first film, from 1989 Roger and mefocused on how downsizing and desertion from the auto industry destroyed Flint’s way of life.
Although Moore describes his hometown’s water crisis in his 2018 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11he is missing in Flint: Who can you trust? By e-mail, Baxter, who was born 1969 in Nottingham, England and is now based in Scotland, explained: “Michael was very aware and supportive of the film and in fact used some of our footage in Fahrenheit 9/11. We filmed Michael when he arrived in Flint – but there were so many plot twists that this scene didn’t make it. The scene will however be included as part of our special additional rewards on Kickstarter!”
However, other notables are on hand, including Alec Baldwin, a longtime supporter of liberal causes, who narrates Baxter’s film and even visits Flint at one point to see firsthand what happens there. (According to Deadline, Flint: Who can you trust? “was due to be released in October 2021 but was postponed after accidental filming on the set of Baldwin’s film Rust. »
Activist/actor Mark Ruffalo also travels to Flint to support the hard-pressed locals who have to go to supply sites daily to pick up government-supplied containers of bottled water (they’re only allowed to just one container of water a day, which is But here’s where things get really murky and perplexing regarding the ‘truth’: Ruffalo’s Water Defense group brings out Scott Smith, who claims to have expertise with questionable technology for detect water toxicity levels.
Its spongy apparatus is shown in Flint: Who can you trust? as having allegedly been used to clean up oil spills, and later to be able to absorb the corona virus. Is Smith a miracle worker or a flimflam? The documentary casts doubt on the reliability of the device it touts and on Smith himself, who becomes embroiled in arguments with Professor Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech scientist who initiated the first study on the Flint Water in 2015. And when he agrees to sit down to be interviewed by Baxter (something Governor Snyder avoids like the plague), Smith, who is not a credentialed scientist, accuses Baxter of “trapped journalism” and warns the filmmaker against libel suits.
Either way, Smith later switches sides and aligns himself with Edwards, who also finds himself at the center of the controversy. Previously, Edwards was the hero of the people of Flint, but when he finally claimed Governor Snyder had taken steps to improve water quality, he got into a fight with some locals. A dispute ensues. Who should we believe?
Baxter documents a predicament confounded by the “truth”. In the midst of a serious crisis with serious health issues, it is also unclear who is telling the truth and being honest and who is opportunistically trying to exploit the situation for what may be personal gain and fame. At one point, Professor Edwards raises questions about our ‘post-truth’ era, then complains about ‘Hollywood fraud’, in an apparent reference to Ruffalo, the three-time Oscar nominee who portrayed the Incredible Hulk. and brought Smith to Flint.
Flint: Who can you trust? also raises questions about the nature of journalism. Traditionally, “objectivity” means impartial, neutral and factual reporting. But Anthony Baxter, who has also made several documentaries about Donald Trump, suggests that in the face of massive suffering, objectivity can have a whole other meaning: that a journalist “stands up” to injustice, oppression and mass poisoning. And that is a truth worth fighting for.
Flint: Who can you trust? opens in US theaters from April 29 with a digital release to follow in May.