Dark Waters

December 15, 2019

See it. #MustSee Excellent.

“The system is rigged. “They want us to think they protect us, but that’s a lie. WE protect us. We do. Nobody else.”

The film is based on the NYTimes article:

“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare”

Jan. 6, 2016

Rob Bilott on land owned by the Tennants near Parkersburg, W.Va.Credit…Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.

Rob Bilott on land owned by the Tennants near Parkersburg, W.Va.Credit…Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times


White had lived in Vienna, a northern suburb of Parkersburg, and as a child, Bilott often visited her in the summers. In 1973 she brought him to the cattle farm belonging to the Tennants’ neighbors, the Grahams, with whom White was friendly. Bilott spent the weekend riding horses, milking cows and watching Secretariat win the Triple Crown on TV. He was 7 years old. The visit to the Grahams’ farm was one of his happiest childhood memories.

When the Grahams heard in 1998 that Wilbur Tennant was looking for legal help, they remembered Bilott, White’s grandson, who had grown up to become an environmental lawyer. They did not understand, however, that Bilott was not the right kind of environmental lawyer. He did not represent plaintiffs or private citizens. Like the other 200 lawyers at Taft, a firm founded in 1885 and tied historically to the family of President William Howard Taft, Bilott worked almost exclusively for large corporate clients. His specialty was defending chemical companies. Several times, Bilott had even worked on cases with DuPont lawyers. Nevertheless, as a favor to his grandmother, he agreed to meet the farmer. ‘‘It just felt like the right thing to do,’’ he says today. ‘‘I felt a connection to those folks.’’’

Credit…Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times.]

The connection was not obvious at their first meeting. About a week after his phone call, Tennant drove from Parkersburg with his wife to Taft’s headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. They hauled cardboard boxes containing videotapes, photographs and documents into the firm’s glassed-in reception area on the 18th floor, where they sat in gray midcentury-modern couches beneath an oil portrait of one of Taft’s founders. Tennant — burly and nearly six feet tall, wearing jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and a baseball cap — did not resemble a typical Taft client. ‘‘He didn’t show up at our offices looking like a bank vice president,’’ says Thomas Terp, a partner who was Bilott’s supervisor. ‘‘Let’s put it that way.’’


Dark Waters isn’t your typical Todd Haynes movie. The director of a varied array of movies like Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, and Carol is known for his pioneering queer cinema and lush, haunting tales of love and fear.

A whistleblower drama based on a real-life story — more a work of social realism and protest than anything else — isn’t an obvious fit for his style, then. Yet Dark Waters still works, thanks to a compelling story and performance from Mark Ruffalo. Based on a New York Times article titled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” the movie tells the story of Rob Bilott, an attorney at a large corporate firm in Cincinnati who discovers that the people in his West Virginia hometown are becoming ill and dying from mysterious causes that seem linked to the DuPont Chemical plant in town.



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