Flint, Michigan is one of the most dangerous cities in America, if not the world and has been consistently in America’s top ten for over three decades. After the abandonment of the motor industry, the town has spiralled into poverty, substance abuse, violence and crime. This is further compounded by crippling budget cuts to the running of basic local services and amenities like the fire department and police. Nine police cars cover a town of 100,000 residents with a recent reduction in officers from 300 to 98. Then, in 2014, to save money the Governor decided a change in policy was required and switched the water supply, re-routing it through old pipes causing dangerous level of contamination. It can no longer be used for cooking, drinking or cleaning. The Environment Protection Agency categorised Flint’s water as more than twice as polluted as hazardous waste.
This sets the background for a gripping, yet ultimately depressing documentary series that charts a town in the most severe of crises against the backdrop of an election campaign of the town’s Mayor, the fate of the current Police Commissioner and the Senate investigation into the water supply scandal. You could cut the feeling of mistrust, anger and suspicion by the residents of the Government and all instances of authority with a poorly cleaned knife.
The documentary is a blend of one-on-one interviews and “Cops” style ride-alongs that work well and allows you the viewer to empathise and build a rapport with both the severely understaffed and ill quipped officers as well as the residents that they are sworn to protect. It is fortunate for the filmmakers that the series was filmed during the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign, Black Lives Matter protests, the Dallas police ambush and several controversial handlings of unarmed black men by Police Officers.
What you get is a clear behind the curtains look at what Obama and Trump’s America is really like in poverty-stricken small(ish) town America and it is compelling and harrowing at the same time whilst also a study into the racial issues gripping America today.
There were times when the show loses its train of thought (did we really need to follow two of the officers on their first holiday together?!), but overall the show manages to pull off the unthinkable; an informed perspective into possibly the worst place to live in the US without sticking out its hand to beg for quarters. Bravo.
Watch this if you like: “Erin Brockovich”, “Dope”, “COPS”