- Brian Donaldson
- 1 December 2020
Anger-inducing documentary about a dirty water scandal in Michigan that hit the most vulnerable in society
In Anthony Baxter's acclaimed previous documentaries, You've Been Trumped and its sequel You've Been Trumped Too, a clear bogeyman was there for all to see (there's a clue in the titles). In his new film about the toxic levels of lead which are first discovered and then allowed to fester in Flint's water systems, Michigan governor Rick Snyder appears to be the piece's obvious villain. He ignores pleas from residents (all of them poor, many are non-white) whose children are falling sick and developing rashes, until eventually chucking a sticking plaster over the problem with some free (for a while) bottles of filtered water.
Arguably worst of all, Snyder posts jolly Christmas messages with his wife while Flint's population fork out crazy amounts of money to buy bottled water rather than wash with and drink the toxic, off-colour liquids pouring from their taps. When hidden figures of a spike in Legionnaires' disease in the area are finally announced by Snyder, the people are almost ready for all-out rebellion, settling for a neat photo op dressed as poisoned corpses in front of city hall.
But in the twists and turns of this story, there are other bad guys cropping up: there's the pseudo scientist who heads up Mark Ruffalo's not-for-profit organisation that highlights issues with unclean water; there's the professor who is among the first to uncover the scandal before becoming a Snyder advisor; heck, even Obama comes out bad from all this after being barracked for a PR stunt in which he glugged filtered Flint water.
Asides from Ruffalo, more Hollywood star power is thrown in with narrator Alec Baldwin moving briefly in front of the camera to meet some of the city's suffering residents. This feels a little like unnecessary celebrity showboating, but in the main, Flint is a darkly compelling and richly textured documentary which makes you angry, confused and sad, often in the same scene.
BBC Scotland, Tuesday 1 December, 10pm. Watch on BBC iPlayer.