There’s a war waging in Michigan, where tens of thousands of people – predominantly black residents living in poverty – are being denied the right to accessible and clean water. Our democracy is being tested, it is being undermined, legally, through the court system. If it is successful in Michigan, which U.S. state will be next?
UN Special Repporteur Catarina de Albuquerque said while in Detroit “We were shocked by the scale of the mass disconnections and by the way it is affecting the weakest, poorest, and the most vulnerable.”
When asked by the Detroit News in 2014 about the human right to clean and accessible water, Federal Judge Steven Rhodes, who also headed the Detroit bankruptcy, said “There is no such right or law."
In 2013, the City of Detroit’s Emergency Manager seized control over the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD). Days later, a $5.6 million contract was signed with Homrich Wrecking to ramp up water shutoffs of supposedly delinquent accounts, with a stated mission to recoup an unpaid balance of $142.5 million. By the summer of 2014 there were 3,000 shutoffs a week — predominantly black Detroiters living in poverty lost water service for missed payments of as little as $150.
NOTOWN tells the story of these Michigan communities under siege. It is a signal call about the abuse of fundamental human rights that can happen anywhere in the U.S.
WHY US TO TELL THIS STORY
My name is Capella. I am from Detroit’s East Side. My brothers and I were educated in the Detroit Public School system. My parents raised us in an activist family. They taught us to work hard and fight for what is right, to take action and not to sit down and accept injustice.
From an early age my brothers and I participated and learned from the people who braved the frontlines of social change: protests, pickets, marches. Yes, that's me with the bullhorn in the picture above. It was taken at a protest in 1991 after the violent beating of brother Rodney King. But I have pictures of a much younger me and my family that I’ll be sharing throughout this campaign.
HOW THIS ALL STARTED
In 2014 my dad called me from Detroit and said, "I think you need to come document these mass water shutoffs happening in the city.”
That call started a chain of events that has led me and my friend and fellow filmmaker, Cucillo Consad, to Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, Virginia, Washington, DC and many other places over the last almost 5 years.
We met and started following brave new voices in the fight: Valerie Jean, Melissa Mays and Rebekah Larson. We followed lifelong activist Maureen Taylor. We talked to academics like Dr. Peter Hammer, clergy like Reverend Kellerman and Reverend Pinkney, and civil rights lawyers like Alice Jennings.
In every conversation, the message was communicated clearly: people have a right to Basic Humanity, Civility, Dignity, and Quality of Life, regardless of social status or monthly income. Everyone has a right to a job with a fair living wage, a quality education for their children, affordable healthcare, food and shelter, community and the most basic human right: clean and accessible water.
When we started this project in 2014, inequality and oppression of poor people was a little more subtle. In this age of Trump, inequality is brazen and no-holds-barred. In fact, it's almost celebrated. The indignity of poverty, the separation of families, the neglect of communities in natural disaster areas, police shootings and the complete disregard for black, brown and poor communities is constantly in our face. But we are rising.
Organizations like the The Poor People’s Campaign, Fight for 15, Michigan Welfare Rights, We The People, Water You Fighting For and many others are increasing awareness of these injustices. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these activists and organizations, we see this film as another tool to help to organize, mobilize and push the movement one step closer to equality for everyone.
KICKSTARTER AND POV
This is my 12th film, but my first Kickstarter Campaign.
For the last four and half years our team (Co-director/Producer Capella Fahoome, Director/Cinematographer Cucillo Consad, Producer Richard Fahoome, Coordinator Bruce Clifton, and Editor Roy Heisler) has been working in between our day jobs, covering all out of pocket expenses ourselves.
So far, we’ve resisted a community-based funding campaign because of a common filmmaker's dilemma: raising money for a film about people who also need the same resources seems counterintuitive. But, over time we’ve changed our perspective.
The opposition has a huge platform. Their messages are getting out through news networks and large social media outlets daily. So, we need a tool to get our message out — and that’s where this film comes in.
In July, we were invited to participate in Good Pitch Local Detroit, a pitching forum convening filmmakers and changemakers around urgent issues to catalyze coalitions, create campaigns and galvanize communities.
At Good Pitch, we connected with American Documentary. They've agreed to match 30% of a Kickstarter campaign up to $10k through their partnership with Knight Foundation. That means for every $100 we raise, American Documentary will contribute an additional $30. How could we not do our best to leverage this funding by bringing it to the people?!
WHERE ARE WE NOW & HOW CAN YOU HELP?
We’ve been filming for the last 4.5 years. We’re logging and transcribing all our footage. We’re also assembling a rough cut of the film and identifying what’s left to film. And that’s where you come in…
All the funds we raise will go to support logging, transcribing and editing our rough cut, and then our final stretch of filming. We need to pay our crew for this work, and pay for hard drives, flights, food, car rentals and gas/tolls.
SOME OF THE VOICES FEATURED IN OUR FILM
Maureen Taylor, Alice Jennings, Valerie Jean, Melissa Mays, Rebekah Larson, Dr. Peter Hammer, Reverend Kellerman, Reverend Pinkney and Richard Fahoome.
MORE ABOUT US AND OUR PREVIOUS WORK
Capella Fahoome, Producer/Co-Director: Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, Voices of the Sea, Lost in Woonsocket, Euphoria
Cucillo Consad, Director/Cinematographer: Lost in Woonsocket, Euphoria, The Learning
Roy Heisler, Editor: Lost in Woonsocket, The Gorilla Doctors, Euphoria.
Richard Fahoome, Producer: NOTOWN is Richard's first feature film
Bruce Clifton, Assoc. Producer/Coordinator: NOTOWN is Bruce's first feature film
Neyda Martinez, Consulting Producer: The Return, Lucky
Joanna Rabiger, Consulting Producer/Writer: Give Up Tomorrow, What Was Ours
Risks and challenges
Risks and Challenges
Funding a documentary like this one is always a challenge. Our goal right now is to raise the funds necessary to get this film completed and released as soon as possible so we can shed light on this injustice and bring focus and attention to this issue without delay. With so many good and worthy projects out there, we understand how hard it is for you to decide where to donate and we are very grateful to you for considering our project.
- (30 days)