TORONTO — Queen Latifah is hoping that her role in a movie about the Flint water crisis will bring more attention to what she calls one of the great American tragedies of this century.
Latifah said Thursday during filming in Toronto that American officials including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder acted for too long like the water crisis did not exist and that someone should be in jail for it.
Flint’s water was tainted with lead for at least 18 months, starting in spring 2014. While under the control of state-appointed financial managers, the city of nearly 100,000 tapped the Flint River as its water source while a new pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. But the river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, allowing lead from old pipes and other fixtures to leach into the drinking water.
“There were a bunch of people who knew about it and then didn’t do anything,” Latifah said between takes.
The movie follows the story of women from Flint who sought justice for residents who were unknowingly drinking and using lead-laden water.
During a visit to the set, Latifah filmed a scene in a hospital room where the actress playing her character’s daughter is informed that she has had a miscarriage.
“Although (Queen Latifah’s character) is a composite, it took a lot of people to make a lot of noise to get the word to the right people,” Latifah said. “This was a team effort to even bring this to light the way it should have been, and then to counter a bunch of people in positions of power who said there was no problem.”
Lead contamination in the past has been linked to learning disabilities and other problems in children.
Flint switched from a Detroit regional water system to the Flint River to save money. The city has since switched back to the Detroit area system.
“Flint” is scheduled to air in the fall on the Lifetime channel in the United States.
Cher was originally scheduled to play the role Queen Latifah has taken on, but pulled out last month because of what was said to be a serious family issue. The movie also stars Jill Scott, Betsy Brandy, Marin Ireland and Lyndie Greenwood.
Rob Gillies, The Associated Press