DVD: Flint (2017)

January 7, 2019 | By

Film: Weak

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label:  Sony

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  February 13, 2018

Genre:  Drama / Docu-Drama / TV Movie

Synopsis: Compact TV movie dramatizing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in which the water supply was switched from Lake Huron to a known polluted river.

Special Features:  (none)




Based on a Time Magazine article by Josh Sanburn (“The Toxic Trap”), Flint chronicles the 2015 discovery by local citizens in Flint, Michigan, that the water they’ve been drinking, cooking, and bathing since the city’s water supply switchover is contaminated with dangerously toxic levels of carcinogens.

In 2014 it was decided to switch water from Lake Huron to the known chemically fouled Flint River until a new mains was constructed. Soon after the change, locals noticed skin rashes and serious, seething health issues which neither the city Mayor not Michigan Governor took seriously, even when it was revealed the city’s extensive and aging pipes were leeching lead.

The film project was reportedly begun by Cher but later overtaken by Queen Latifah, and although it was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and NAACP Award, Flint is very much a formulaic crisis-of-the-week teleplay which lacks the edge and outrage of a meticulously choreographed docu-drama.

It takes a good 30 minutes until screenwriter Barbara Stepansky (TV’s Ex-Best) has armed her characters with the crucial information to confront the villains in council meetings and vent their outrage.There’s causal bonding and friendships that develop after army brat Melissa Mays (Marin Ireland) has a seizure and her sons develop rashes and behavioral issues; the sons of LeeAnne Walters (Michigander Betsy Brandt) are similarly affected; and Nayyirah Shariff (Jill Scott) discovers missing data among the treatment records. Fictional characters include local nurse Adina Banks (Lyndie Greenwood) who suffers a miscarriage, and her feisty mom Iza Banks (Latifah, who also executive produced along with journalist & newscaster Katie Couric).

Perhaps just as problematic as the workmanlike script is Bruce Beresford’s direction, which is more flat than measured, and lacks any urgency or outrage. Hardly a visualist, Beresford’s approach is to let moments unfold under soft yet flat lighting, and focus on the bonding of the four women who become crucial advocates for their city’s disenfranchised, poisoned, and blue collar citizens. Best known for the melodramas Tender Mercies (1983), Crimes of the Heart (1986), and the Oscar hit Driving Miss Daisy (1989), his filmography features a variety of genres, some with very mixed results, such as the political intrigue within the docu-drama Mao’s Last Dancer (2009).

Flint has the necessary dramatic underpinnings – revelations of the insidious poisoning, sleuthing by a responsible EPA agent (Juan Carlos Velis), and the university professor (Rob Morrow) who gathered returned testing kits that refuted city and state-disseminated data – but the teleplay rarely shifts into high gear, and the momentum of scenes are harmed by regular fadeouts for ad breaks.

Local shots of crumbling Flint and  archival news footage add some authenticity to the visuals, and Hamilton, Ontario is a decent superficial Flint stand-in, but Francis Kenny’s cinematography is too benign for the story; one senses the drama was visually softened for the Lifetime channel look, including John Debney’s score, which sounds forcibly dialed down in the mix and rarely makes an appearance, save for a punchy End Credits.

Sony’s DVD features a straightforward presentation lacking any extras, whereas the scope of the Flint water crisis was more ruefully examined by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018), placing heavy blame on governor Rick Snyder.

Perhaps the strangest side note to the production of Flint was Beresford’s inability to re-enter the U.S. in 2017 when he was refused entry at the Canada-U.S. border due to not declaring a trip to Tehran, Iran, for a film festival market back in 2014. Temporarily marooned in Toronto (where the teleplay was being edited), Beresford later returned to his native Australia to film Ladies in Black (2018).



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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