An exposé on health hazards posed by abandoned uranium mines scattered across America, the documentary “Hot Water” leaps to conclusions with its own unscientific survey, fuzzy numbers, circumstantial evidence and anecdotal examples.
Filmmaker Lizabeth Rogers describes in her first-person narration how the project originated as a tangent from 2009’s “On Sacred Ground.” An investigative journalist she is not. With the numbing tedium of a school term paper, she recounts a car accident suffered while filming in South Dakota and a mountain-climbing excursion she and an associate producer undertook in Canyon City, Colo.
Testimonials from the Pourier clan of South Dakota are interspersed throughout, blaming the family’s cancer death toll on exposure to radiation from the mines. But one can hardly gauge the magnitude of the disaster from this case study. The interviewees don’t emote enough to connect with viewers viscerally. When Candy Pourier does break down, Rogers promptly emerges from behind the camera to hug her.
Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, husband of the film’s co-producer Elizabeth Kucinich, is one of the talking heads — an apparent conflict of interest. The film’s very legitimate concerns were more expertly explored in a 2014 series by Brandon Loomis for the Arizona Republic.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica. Also on VOD.