by Landon Johnson 01 November, 2021
Trust is one of the most sacred factors of reliability. But what happens when governments betray the trust of those who they are sworn to protect? That was the case in Flint, Michigan back in 2014 when city officials switched the water supply from the more expensive Great Lakes to the contaminated Flint River; thereby, poisoning the city’s residents. This act led to one of the most catastrophic human-caused environmental disasters since Chernobyl.
In Flint: Who Can You Trust? award-winning journalist Anthony Baxter conducts an intimate deep dive into the blatant betrayal and grotesque dereliction of duty by government officials while framing an entire community’s fight for the most basic human right: clean water.
Through a series of raw, emotional interviews, Baxter successfully pulls back the bleak curtain behind one the most notable breakdowns in public trust in American history.
Baxter, who filmed over the course of five years, does an exquisite job of displaying the negligence from Michigan Governor Richard Snyder and how his ideology about running the state like a business was ultimately what led to disaster. Baxter highlights the former venture capitalist’s lack of experience in politics and overall negligence to protect the citizens who trusted him.
Despite the residents’ complaints of illness after switching the city’s water source, city officials falsely assured them that their safety was paramount.
In the film, Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards can be seen visiting the residents’ homes, testing the water, and concluding that the lead levels in the water were significantly higher than World Health Organization standards.
Baxter also meets with a local pediatrician, Mona Hanna-Attisha, who after performing a comprehensive study on children in the area, established that the lead levels in their blood were significantly higher after the city switched the water source.
Not only did city officials elect to change the water supply to the tainted, germ-infested Flint River, but they also failed to treat the new water source for toxic substances. Therefore, the corrosive agents in the water ended up eroding the city’s lead pipes; thereby, exposing the residents and over 10,000 children to dangerous afflictions like Legionaries disease, which took the lives of at least 12 people.
Baxter also offers narration by Alec Baldwin and features Marc Ruffalo, who was very vocal in the fight for clean water. He also offers some interesting exposition on some of the organizations the actor worked with to “help” with the crisis.
Most of us have heard the media stories. But meeting the families first-hand evokes memories of Erin Brockovich in the infamous civil case against mega utility PG & E.
It’s appalling, disturbing, and more importantly, potent. But even more so enlightening. How could city officials abuse their power for the sake of money whilst destroying people’s lives? It’s unfathomable. Yet it’s constructed so brilliantly that Flint: Who Can You Trust? will make you not even trust your Brita water filter.
Despite the murkiness of the situation, Baxter was able to piece together the chronological events and tell the victims’ stories. We would just like to see more of the aftermath and what the scandals exposure has led to as far as restitution and implementing previsions of accountability so that his type of disaster never happens again. And how they could even begin to put a price on the evil that they have done.
According to the film, the state of Michigan has spent over $30 million both prosecuting state officials and defending them against resident lawsuits.
Early this year, over 40 charges were brought against Governor Snyder along with eight other city officials. A civil court approved a preliminary $600 million payment to victims earlier this year. The criminal trial continues to this day.
Flint: Who Can You Trust? will make you wonder just that.