'Hot Water': Film Review

Hot Water Still - H 2016
Courtesy of Indican Pictures
You'll think twice about drinking from the tap.

Lizabeth Rogers and Kevin Flint's documentary presents a scary case about the harmful effects of nuclear contamination on our water supply.

Arriving shortly on the heels of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Lizabeth Rogers and Kevin Flint's documentary is certainly well-timed. Detailing the harmful effects of nuclear contamination on much of the country's water supply, Hot Water is scary enough to make you contemplate drinking only imported bottled water from now on.

Described by the filmmaker via voiceover narration as being an offshoot of her 2009 documentary On Sacred Ground, about the plight of Native Americans in South Dakota, Hot Water makes a strong case for its thesis that uranium from our mining and nuclear industries has seeped into the rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for no fewer than 38 million people.

The doc features extensive commentary by scientists and academics who testify to the negative long-term effects, including Dr. Helen Caldicott, who has devoted much of her career to opposing nuclear power. Another party heard from is former congressman and environmental activist Dennis Kucinich, who happens to be married to the film's co-producer, Elizabeth Kucinich.

But the array of talking heads, impressive and convincing as they are, don't have the impact of the personal stories included, such as the moving accounts by the members of a Native American South Dakota clan who have suffered abnormally high cancer rates (the director actually steps out from behind the camera to comfort one tearful subject). Comments are often blunt and to the point, such as when one testifier declares, "Water killed my mother."

We hear about such things as the contamination of livestock, resulting in tainted meat; high levels of cancers and birth defects among people living in affected areas; and the huge costs of clean-ups, which are inevitably passed on to the public.

The film's low budget is plainly evident at times, and its approach is often scattershot, such as its copious use of footage from the infamous Duck and Cover educational films of the 1950s and brief discussion of Karen Silkwood's mysterious death. Another movie reference comes through a segment devoted to the infamous 1956 film The Conqueror starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan and produced by Howard Hughes. That pic was shot over a period of 13 weeks in an area that had once been the site of nuclear testing and, according to the documentary, within 15 years after its completion half of its cast and crew had died of cancer.

"It's said that Howard Hughes carried guilt about it to his grave," the narrator dramatically intones, giving an unfortunate tabloid air to the otherwise sober proceedings. It's a problem plaguing the film which often doesn't give this vitally important matter the rigorous journalistic treatment it deserves.

Distributor: Indican Pictures
Production: Rogers Entertainment Group
Directors-screenwriters-editors: Lizabeth Rogers, Kevin Flint
Producers: Lizabeth Rogers, Elizabeth Kucinich
Executive producer: Donald C. Rogers
Director of photography: Kevin Flint
Composer: Ben Dowling

Not rated, 78 minutes