The water crisis that is currently gripping residents of Flint, Michigan is one of the most tragic predicaments of recent times. It is all the more tragic for being entirely preventable. The hot-off-the-press documentary Here's to Flint explores the events which lead to this catastrophy, and offers an urgent and rousing portrait of ordinary citizens who are fearless in standing up to power.
It all began as a cost-cutting measure enacted by the city's emergency management department. By switching the city's water supply from the bountiful Lake Huron and Detroit River to the highly polluted Flint River, officials set in motion a series of calamatous health hazards to which much of the public was largely unaware. When residents did complain about the quality of the dirty water, their protests fell on deaf ears. That all changed when mysterious illnesses began to grip the people of Flint, much of them children, in the form of rashes, hair loss, nervous system disorders and cancer. Flint's water contained alarmingly elevated levels of lead, a chemical that poses disastrous health implications when consumed in even the smallest quantities.
The film rightfully sheds a harsh light on the cuplrits behind this crisis - the officials who placed the lives of their poverty-stricken, largely African American community members at risk in an attempt to save five million dollars - and places us inside the public hearings where these enraged citizens demand meaningful corrective action. Their future, and the lives of their children, depend on it.
Produced with great insight and humanity by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Here's to Flint is a profoundly sad statement on a government which is blinded by greed to the plight of its people. The water crisis in Flint has become a hot button political issue this campaign season, and the ultimate outcome may not be determined for some time. After all, contaminated water supplies are rampant throughout many parts of the United States. For those communities, the story of Flint should serve as both a precautionary tale, and an inspiring blueprint for how to take back our power from ruthless and apathetic leaders.