In the unsettling exposé What Lies Upstream, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans in the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. There he uncovers a shocking failure of regulation from both state and federal agencies and a damaged political system where chemical companies often write the laws that govern them. While he’s deep into his research in West Virginia, a similar water crisis strikes Flint, Michigan, revealing that the entire system that Americans assume is protecting their drinking water is fundamentally broken. MORE
In January 2014, West Virginians noticed that their tap water had a peculiar smell. It was soon discovered that a mysterious chemical, MCHM, has leaked into the Elk River near Charleston from a damaged tank at a nearby Freedom Industries chemical plant, poisoning the drinking water supply for nine counties —nearly half of the state’s citizens. Hoback — whose interest was piqued by family ties to the state and a desire to understand why the contamination happened — embarks on an investigation that sends him down a rabbit hole of an unimaginable scale.
Cullen Hoback, originally from Los Angeles, spent many summers as a child with his family in West Virginia. His films, which have won multiple awards, include Monster Camp (2007) and Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013), which were shown in top festivals and theaters around the world. Terms and Conditions May Apply, a humorous but chilling documentary about digital privacy, had a significant theatrical release, was picked up by Participant’s PIVOT network, and has been viewed by millions. Hoback has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, Fox, and HuffPost Live and has written op-eds for The Guardian and other major media outlets. He is also a Film Independent Fellow. LESS