Documentary Reviews Television Reviews

FLINT TOWN: A Spark Away from Exploding

With summer just around the corner and everyone jumping into pools, rivers, oceans, and staying hydrated (please drink lots of water during the summer heat), Flint Town is perfect to watch in order to be aware of potential lead in drinking water, and what happens when a city becomes desperate.

This documentary is a series on Netflix and features eight episodes, which all have to do with one city in Michigan, USA – Flint. The town became international news when their water was compromised and home water systems were filled with lead making the water undrinkable. On top of this water crisis, the city had been experiencing an economic crisis, which has lead to an increase in crime and a shortage of police officers. This series documents the city of Flint and a few of the remaining police officers over the presidential election period of 2016 including the preliminary elections.

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Episode Breakdown

Episode one, “Welcome to Flint Town,” follows the journey of several Flint police offers. This episodes dives into the water crisis in Flint, which also brings to light the increase of crime that coincides with the reduction of police and the poverty level of the city. This episode also talks about a new mayor and finally, a new chief of police.

Episode two, “Two Guns,” in addition to the other police officers from the first episode, this episode introduces some fresh police cadets to the needed Flint police force. They discuss the presidential democratic debate and what is affecting police all over the country, the topic of racism.

Episode three, “The Rat Pack,” dives deeper into the community of Flint and how white and black residents interact with each other and police shootings. The episode continues to follow the police officers and newly appointed officers as they struggle with racism, differences in culture, and high crime rate while people continue to lack fresh water.

Episode four, “Death and Homicide,” moves away from the water crisis and really focuses on Black Lives Matter and police shootings. They interview police officers in Flint and get there thoughts on what is occurring in the United States. Part of this includes shutting down a liquor store due to a lot of violence recorded onsite and the question is: Is it the fault of the liquor store or the police?

Episode five, “The Numbers,” starts off with a reporter who discusses her job as a “beat” reporter and her take on Flint. It continues with one of the officers moving on to the FBI and a new police officer losing old friends because he is now police. Throughout the Flint police department, all officers are looking to have a discussion to improve the situation resulting in a police “reserve.” However, even with an increase in support, residents are not happy with police protection and demand more.

Episode six, “Devil’s Night,” brings the other side of the political spectrum to Flint with Trump’s rally while the police deal with several shootings and homicides in their district. At the same time, Flint is experiencing a potential repeat of history with more budget cuts to the police force and the fear that things will get worse. Meanwhile, the water is still not drinkable.

Episode seven, “Two Worlds,” now discusses the election – who will be the new President of the United States and what will happen to the police force in Flint.

Episode eight, “The Stand Off,” again talks about the racial divide in Flint, but also around the country as Trump is elected. This episode gives some last commentary from the different police officers interviewed and what might lay ahead in their futures.

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Editor’s Note: This article was written earlier this year, before the current BLM resurgence. I recommend visiting blacklivesmatter.com to stay educated and to support the movement.

Long Run

For a few years (during Obama’s presidency), Black Lives Matter and police shootings have made headlines. Now, the media doesn’t cover much of it anymore. I don’t think things have just disappeared, but the media has found new things to scandalize the nation such as the Corona Virus or the #MeToo movement.

I believe there is still a problem. No country is perfect. No society is perfect. But, I prefer discussions being had about these frictions rather than wars and screaming matches or worse, hiding the issues period as some other countries do. With anything, there are those who will take full advantage of their position. As the cliché goes, “give an inch, take a mile.” We cannot stop human nature, but maybe we can curb it with the right education on acceptance and tolerance.

From the documentary, one of the big takeaways viewers can receive is that, poverty and health crisis (water), do not discourage crime. If anything it promotes it fervently. When a place is riddled with poverty, this affects the numbers of the police force with budget cuts, which doesn’t help curb crime. The best way to fight poverty and crime is education. We need to support educational systems especially at young ages. Education will also help curb racism and lead to a peaceful place.

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Personal Note

I picked this documentary to watch due to the water crisis that was international recognized. This was a major crisis, but as I live in Montreal now, there is a semi-water crisis. Many of the older buildings have old lead pipes and just this year I received a notice from the city government saying my building is suspected to have lead pipes.

It never occurred to me that tap water might be dangerous until I started traveling to developing countries like the Philippines or Peru. I was raised that North America and Europe were very up to date and healthy. Upon hearing about the Flint crisis and now, living in Montreal, it made me realize that no matter how “Western” or “Civilized” we think we are, there is always room to grow, improve, and that there is human error. Which is what happened Flint. The city government decided to change policy on the water, which then made the water corrupted.

I have heard that lead is dangerous for your health in high dosage. Upon reviewing the symptoms, the greatest danger of lead is to children as it affects their mental learning capabilities. There are symptoms in adults, but the true victims of lead in water are the children. For my case particularly, I do not have children in my household. I still installed a filter, but I am not worried for my health. If I had children and lived in Flint specifically, I would be more worried. I am worried for the health of children in Montreal, but as the city seems to be doing due diligence in notifying and updating pipes that is the best we can hope for.

On this note, please consult any medical professional for your own health when it comes to lead and please review any policy/building notices to see if you have lead pipes in your homes.

Overall, this documentary series starts off strong and engaging, but the repetitiveness of the episodes leads it lacking. I strongly watched the first several episodes, but by the time it came to the fifth, I was using it as background noise while I worked. Which, you might be able to tell during my episode breakdown. If you have a lot of time on your hands and don’t mind a political piece, this is the documentary for you. If you are just curious about Flint, I recommend the first several episodes.

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This article was written by a guest contributor
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Marinella Yule
Marinella hails from her travel blog My Open Passport. She is a big fan of film, which was her second degree after Marketing in university. She is a lover of all genres, but tends to get drawn to documentaries, drama, action, and foreign films/series, as she also speaks Spanish and French. Follow her on Instagram | YouTube | Pinterest

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