Anthony Baxter knows how to make an impact. The activist filmmaker behind You’ve Been Trumped, who was arrested for interviewing a greenkeeper at the president’s Scottish golf course, returns with an investigation into the scandal surrounding the Flint water crisis. Flint begins with drone shots of the Michigan landscape before cutting to a woman performing slam poetry. Then, words narrated by Alec Baldwin come onscreen in a slightly cliché manner. However, the plight of the titular town’s inhabitants which sits at the core of the feature is undeniably resonant.
A mostly working-class metropolis ravaged by the closure of automobile factories, Flint was devastated even further by the election of Governor Rick Snyder. He “runs the city like a business”, cuts public services and switches the water providers from sourcing in the Great Lakes to the nearby Flint River, the contents of which are improperly treated. The reality of thousands drinking and bathing in the filthy liquid causes a horrendous surge in skin infections, miscarriages and a resurgence of Legionnaires’ disease. Through it all, the government and other officials lie, improperly investigate and otherwise use red tape to worm their way out of justice.
The history of the town is covered through brief archival footage, while the rest of the runtime delivers a potted history of the situation. This includes the infamous intervention by former president Barack Obama who visited Flint and eroded trust further by drinking the water there, making it clear whose side he was really on. Baxter doesn’t spend a lot of time showing people at work, the process of the meetings or the day-to-day life of these families. As he delves deeper into the wide-ranging issues, the director increasingly puts himself into the film, as does Baldwin. The famous actor visits the city near the end of the movie to meet with some of the documentary’s subjects. Herein lies the problem: the eponymous crisis is going nowhere, so this activist work is only able to rouse viewers by raising awareness and forging a happy ending. It remains to be seen whether there will be one.
Flint is released digitally on demand on 1st December 2020.
Watch the trailer for Flint here: