Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter heads to Flint, Michigan for this melancholy documentary exploring the city's ongoing water emergency

Film Review by Carmen Paddock | 02 Mar 2020
  • Flint
Film title: Flint
Director: Anthony Baxter
Starring: Alec Baldwin (narrator)

Almost six years after Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River, the water crisis feels a constant fixture of our news cycle, trotted out for various political agendas with little progress made on the city’s public health. Anthony Baxter’s documentary goes back to the origins of this budget-saving decision and the almost immediate side effects the city – especially its children – began to exhibit. By combining archival footage, interviews, and fly-on-the-wall records of public proceedings, Flint captures the baffling incompetence and apathy that has plagued the city since 2014.

The film’s first half-hour is somewhat disjointed thanks to its use of animation and an overbearing score, but once the pieces fall into place these stylistic choices take a backseat to the maddening events and the various players – from the question-dodging politicians to the self-aggrandising, self-styled scientists – looking to make their name on Flint’s legacy. Baxter delivers a masterclass in how to let a person’s actions and motivations – or lack thereof – speak for themselves. Watching key players’ demeanours change as the political wind shifts, emphasised by skilful callbacks to earlier scenes and years, proves the documentary’s strongest statements.

Flint is a painstaking picture of a city in crisis and makes no judgement that the participants do not bring on themselves. In the end, unwavering sympathy remains with the people of Flint, who continue to pay extortionate bills for a service they cannot use and have no clear answers on theirs or their children's future. No closure is found at the documentary’s melancholy conclusion – the fight continues regardless of the transience and impotence of its allies.

Flint received its world premiere at Glasgow Film Festival;
Flint is broadcast 10pm, 1 Dec on BBC Scotland and available on the iPlayer thereafter