A movie on the much publicized, and still unresolved Flint, Michigan water crisis is in the works, although surprisingly at Lifetime, and also surprisingly from producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the same pair behind the live TV musicals “The Wiz” and “The Sound of Music”). It’s the second film in the works on the water crisis that we know of (the other is a documentary titled “Lead and Copper,” the directorial debut from Yahoo News journalist William Hart, who covered the story for the online news site before returning as director to tell a more complete tale).
For the Lifetime movie, which will be scripted, the producers, who optioned the rights to TIME magazine’s February 2016 cover story by Josh Sanburn, titled “The Poisoning of an American City” (below), say that their intent is to create something comprehensive, tackling the crisis from the political and bureaucratic angles, as well as focusing on how the residents of Flint were impacted by the poisoning.
Given that it’s been argued that the problem of the contamination of drinking water in Flint is tied to the fact that many of the people affected are black and/or poor, casting for any film or TV series on the subject would be expected to feature roles for black actors. Advocates have charged that Flint residents are victims of “environmental racism” – that race and poverty factored into how Flint wasn’t adequately protected and how its water became contaminated with lead, making the tap water undrinkable.
“While it might not be intentional, there’s this implicit bias against older cities — particularly older cities with poverty (and) majority-minority communities,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents the Flint area. “It’s hard for me to imagine the indifference that we’ve seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community,” he said.
For the record, according to the census, Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino and 4% mixed race; more than 41% of its residents live below the poverty level.
Lifetime has revealed the film’s cast: Queen Latifah, Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott and Marin Ireland are all set to star in the movie, which will be titled “Flint.” Latifah will also executive produce along with Shakim Compere via their Flavor Unit production company, as well as Zadan, Meron and Katie Couric.
Barbara Stepansky is scripting the Lifetime telepic adaptation, with Josh Sanburn serving as a consultant on the film.
Meanwhile, Bruce Beresford will direct the movie which hails from Sony Pictures Television.
Zadan, Meron and Latifah have a history with the Lifetime network; they also produced the 2012 all-black-cast “Steel Magnolias” remake, which Latifah also co-starred in.
While Lifetime is known for its chintzy, soapy dramas, the network promises a “hard-hitting fact-based drama” with “Flint.”
Production begins next week in Toronto.