Review: ‘What Lies Upstream,’ a Broad View of a Chemical Spill


The director Cullen Hoback, right, chartering a boat to collect water samples in his documentary “What Lies Upstream.”

Hyrax Films

In “What Lies Upstream,” the documentarian Cullen Hoback begins by investigating the 2014 chemical spill which left 300,000 West Virginians without safe tap water. The resulting movie, national in scope, lays out damning (if not always cohesive) arguments about how government regulators tend to defer to the companies they are supposed to supervise, how legislative fixes aren’t permanent in addition to how mandated safety checks are useless if they aren’t performed or performed properly.

Some compelling camera personalities emerge. Randy Huffman, at the time the secretary of the State Department of Environmental Protection in West Virginia, wants to “give the benefit of the doubt” to organizations. When Mr. Hoback, who has read a report suggesting which tens of thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act went uninvestigated from the state, cites which number to him, Mr. Huffman brushes the idea off as “not which many.”


Trailer: ‘What Lies Upstream’

A preview of the film.

By HYRAX FILMS on Publish Date January 10, 2018.

Photo by Hyrax Films.

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Dr. Rahul Gupta, who begins the movie as executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department in addition to becomes the state’s commissioner of health in addition to human resources, will be presented as a dogged health advocate who will be cowed as he rises in stature.

Throughout the movie, Mr. Hoback looks for a smoking gun — a revelation which will explain pollution not only in West Virginia, however also in Flint, Mich. in addition to elsewhere — in addition to seems to think he finds one. however the problems appear systemic, tied to human nature in addition to economics.

will be “What Lies Upstream” persuasive in all respects? No. Will the idea make you think twice about what’s gone unnoticed in your tap water? Absolutely.

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