Netflix had warned subscribers last year that they planned to mostly offer original content going forward. Recently they have begun implementing this policy aggressively, with varying degrees of success. One of the quality products that has resulted from this, is ‘Flint Town’.
‘Flint Town’ is a documentary series following the police force of Flint, Michigan. This groundbreaking documentary brings the audience along with the police force as they respond to real crimes.
The premise is that the force in Flint are drowning under the sheer number of call-outs and struggling to prevent the crimes that are taking place constantly. Violent crime is a huge problem in Flint, the police department are understaffed and spread too thin, unable to keep up. We see the officers going from one call-out to another all night but still showing up to them hours late. None of the reality of the situation is held back so it is pretty brutal at times.
However, despite how gritty the show is, it is utterly enthralling. I find myself rushing back to it. It is quite heavy at times though so it is not the kind of series that you can binge watch. Watching one or two episodes frequently is the way to go.
Like all good documentaries, ‘Flint Town’ takes a corner of the planet and puts it under a microscope, opening up its characters, nuances and issues. There is a whole world of power struggles and stories in that town.
In terms of the technical side of things, it is shot like a Hollywood movie. You often wonder how they got such an artistic shot in such a febrile situation. When the first episode began I actually wondered if I was watching fact or fiction. It is totally real, but shot like a cinematic epic.
There are narratives and character arcs in this show which develop organically. The producers do not need to sensationalise anything because the stories present themselves. There is the veteran, just trying to make it to retirement so he can start a family. His girlfriend is also a police officer, she is a small and feminine young woman in a very dangerous environment. The contrast of her standing in a rough neighbourhood where she is seen as the enemy is striking. You worry for her. The story is told in the frames, without using words.
The insightful interviews from normal people really bring the town to life. The talking head interview that really struck me was a young man’s explanation of the public/police tensions. He used an analogy of a mailman being afraid of a dog that has bitten him before. Simple but poignant.
‘Flint Town’ follows the golden rule of good documentary making: it educates and entertains.