May 8, 2017; MLive.com
Dana Elaine Owens has done and is still doing it all: rapper, songwriter, singer, actress, model, television producer, and record producer. She chose the honorific “Queen Latifah” as a teenager because she lived by the conviction that all women should feel like queens. All women, even and especially the poorest of the poor, such as those victimized by the horrific callousness that was and still is the Flint water crisis.
The AP recently reported that Queen Latifah said that government officials were negligent when they learned that Flint’s water was contaminated and that “someone should be in jail for it.” For those depicted as villains in her new movie, Flint, it is unclear what will be worse, jail time or never being able to escape what will soon become the public’s understanding of what happened in Flint and by whom.
Queen Latifah’s face, her almond-shaped eyes and sweeping cheekbones, is a unique beauty animated by a strong character and warmth that inspires her countless fans to always root for her. She typically plays the underdog. The villains in her movies always lose badly.
According to Deadline Hollywood, the Lifetime original movie simply entitled “Flint” is currently being filmed in Toronto and is scheduled to air in the fall. Queen Latifah is also serving as an executive producer of the project. Flint reunites the team that collaborated on Steel Magnolias, the third-most watched original telecast in Lifetime’s history.
Flint will be based on real events, but it will not be a documentary. It will be a movie with a mission. The AP reporter interviewed Queen Latifah on the set during the filming of a scene in a hospital room where her character’s daughter learns that she has had a miscarriage. Queen Latifah describes the Flint water crisis as “one of the great American tragedies of this century” and she wants her movie to do more than merely entertain. Rather than offering overblown clichés, we can expect Queen Latifah to create something achingly alive and heartbreaking.
Flint will tell the true story of how three Flint women inspired a national movement for safe drinking water in the face of great opposition. Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott, and Marin Ireland play these national activists, and Queen Latifah plays a fourth Flint resident who fights for justice locally.
NPQ readers will know at least the arc of this tragic story. To save money, the city switched Flint’s source of tap water from a Detroit regional water system to the Flint River. Lead levels in Flint’s water consequently spiked for the 18 months the city used the Flint River as its water source. The city has since switched back to the Detroit area water system, but problems persist (also here, and most recently here).
Last December, felony charges were brought against two former state-appointed emergency managers and two other officials for choosing thrift over the safety of Flint’s residents.
Charges of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty lodged against the former managers, Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, were lauded by Flint leaders, some of whom said they had feared that blame for the city’s contaminated water might ultimately be pinned only on low-level workers.
If convicted of all charges, they could serve 40 or more years in prison. The accused are maintaining their innocence.
No matter how divisive American life is today, a movie has a way to help us rediscover what unites us. Viewers will very likely embrace Queen Latifah’s message that some of the principals, perhaps new villains portrayed in the movie Flint who have yet to be criminally charged, should go to jail.—James Schaffer