What Lies Upstream

What Lies Upstream

About the Film

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.

The Filmmaker

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

Film Credits

Written and Directed by
Cullen Hoback

Executive Producers
Nitin Khanna
Karan Khanna

John Ramos
Cullen Hoback

Alina Solodnikova

Associate Producers
James Darlin
D. Edward Williams

Vincent Sweeney

Cullen Hoback

Original Score
John Morgan Askew

Original Song "Past Midnight"
Brent Knopf
Holland Andrews

Sound Design
Dan Gamache

Consulting Editors
Greg Finton, A.C.E.
Geoffrey Richman A.C.E.

Brian Hutchings

Alex Silver

Additional Editing
Katherine Fairfax Wright
Alina Solodikova

Production Coordinators
Erin Davis
Elizabeth Glass
Eric Rhodes
Jess Good

Additional Photography
Ben Berry
Teal Greyhavens
Benjamin Hethcoat
Cullen Hoback
Justin Litton
Eric Rhodes
Alina Solodnikova
Mark Totten

Music Editorial
John Morgan Askew

Recorded and Mixed at
Scenic Burrows, Portland OR

Additional Musicians
Kyleen King, Viola
Derek Trost, Vibraphone
Ben Nugent, Drums
Raymond Richards, Petal Steel

Sound Editor
Dan Gamache

Audio Facility
King Soundworks

Field Audio
Justin Litton
Alina Solodnikova

Aerial Footage "Magic"
Donnie Yeoman

Flint Aerial Footage
Carl Turek

Key Art
Hazar Bayindir

Dish Communications, Inc.

Preferred Content

Donaldson & Callif, LLP

Altman, Greenfield, & Selvaggi

Featuring (In Order of Appearance)
Cullen Hoback
Earl Ray Tomblin
Gary Southern
Pete Thaw
Joe Manchin
Laura Jordan
Jeff McIntyre
Randy Huffman
Dr. Rahul Gupta
Maya Nye
Mike Dorsey
Pam Nixon
Erin Brockovich
Chris Walters
Elizabeth Walters
Dr. Andrew Whelton
Kevin Thompson
John Unger
Rebecca Randolph
Mike Hall
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Dr. Marc Edwards
Rick Snyder
Dr. David Lewis
Walter Ivey

Additional Material by
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart", Comedy Central
Al Jazeera America, America This Morning
CBS, CBS 2 News Chicago
Charlotte Gazette Mail
Charleston Tribune
Decision Makers
Eastman Chemical Company
FOX News Fox 4 News Chicago
Freedom Industries Inc.
Good Morning America
Heartland Institute
Jim Hoback
Randy Huffman
KARE NBC 11 Minnesota
KOIN 6 News Portland
Manchin For West Virginia
National Resources Defense Council
NBC 4 News Ohio
The New York Times
Palm Beach Post
Scientific American
US Environmental Protection Agency
Washington Post
WEAZ Charleston
West Virginia Department Of Environmental Protection
West Virginia Manufacturers Association
West Virginia State Journal
WTAE Action News 4

Written by Brent Knopf And Holland Andrews
Performed by Brent Knopf And Holland Andrews
Published by Hot Water Freezes Faster, LLC
Administered by Rough Trade Publishing and Bast Press
By arrangement with Bank Robber Music

Special Thanks
Peter Baxter
Bob Bowcock
Charlotte Cook
Sarah Harris
Jim and Darla Hoback
Janet Keating
Clementine Lager
Lela Loren
AJ McKinnon
Suzanne Ramos
A.J. Schnack
Jerome Schwartz

Funding Provided by
Jaswinder Grover
Jay Walia

This film was produced by Digital Immigrants LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

©MMXVII Digital Immigrants LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Do you know what's in your water? How did this film make you think about your own community's water supply and where water comes from?
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Do you know what's in your water? How did this film make you think about your own community's water supply and where water comes from?