Although many people outside Mayflower have moved on from the oil spill that affected the community over a year ago, there are still stories of health problems and concerns for the future. Those issues are the subject of a new documentary, "An Uncertain Bill Of Health," directed by Eric White and produced and written by Courtney Spradlin of the Log Cabin Democrat.
The film, which has been produced under the banner of the newspaper, will have its premiere at the Little Rock Film Festival at 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Rep in downtown Little Rock. A repeat showing will occur at 3 p.m. Sunday at The Joint. The inclusion of the film in the festival will hopefully shed light on persistent questions that some have in the months following the pipe rupture in the Northwoods subdivision of Mayflower.
"We wanted to take an unbiased look at the concerns that some people still had," White said. "So there are the stories of these people and there are also interviews with the Arkansas Department of Health among others."
It was during the 6-month anniversary of the event that White and Spradlin began to discuss a long form version of the findings that had been reported.
"But there was so much to talk about from the environmental, economic and even ethical standpoints," White said. "We knew we needed to focus on one aspect of the spill."
Spradlin agreed that the health effects needed the most attention.
"In our coverage following the oil spill in Mayflower, the angle that was most difficult to pin down was the spill’s impact on human health," Spradlin said. "Our officials couldn’t deny some residents were highly exposed the day of the spill, but what we don’t know is if the residents who remained in Mayflower were harmfully exposed at lower levels for a longer period of time. Our state doesn’t have studies or data to compare and analyze the effects of the product in daily life situations at lower levels."
White said that he had compiled enough footage to complete a documentary of more than an hour, but the last six months, he had been honing it down to what he said was "a really solid 34 minutes." Although his work for the LCD had included news-style reports, his main work in film has always been in narrative forms.
"It’s the first documentary I’ve done," he said.
White said that although no final answers are given in the film, the questions raised are extremely important.
"It was told to me, and it’s true, that we live in an oil-based economy, so things like this will continue to happen," he said. "It won’t end here."