Cherien Dabis to Helm Film About Flint Researcher Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
You’re most likely familiar with the Flint, Michigan water crisis, but you may not know about Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose research concluded that a generation of Flint children had come into contact with high levels of lead. “Amreeka” director Cherien Dabis’ next film will tell Hanna-Attisha’s story, Deadline reports.
Anonymous Content has optioned Hanna-Attisha’s book and life rights, with plans for Dabis to write, direct, and produce a feature film. The as-yet untitled book is “a dramatic first-hand account of the crisis that has inspired global outrage because underprivileged children were harmed due to scandalous neglect and indifference by bureaucrats,” the source writes.
“This is not just the story of a Michigan city and its toxic water,” explained Hanna-Attish, who is usually referred to as Dr. Mona. “This a personal story of how I, as an Iraqi-American immigrant, came to be a pediatrician in Flint and it is a story of science, medicine, justice, and democracy; of how they all intersect, and, ultimately, what we humans owe to each other.”
According to Dabis, she felt a connection to Hanna-Attisha from the moment she first heard about the pediatrician. “Like Dr. Mona, my father is a pediatrician. Because of him, I’ve always had a keen interest in public health and medicine,” she said. “When I read about Dr. Mona and the incredible work she’s done to expose the water crisis and her crusade on behalf of the people of Flint, it hit me on a deep and personal level.”
Hanna-Attish’s book will be published April 2018. Anonymous Content’s Rosalie Swedlin (“Live From Baghdad”) and Michael Sugar (“Spotlight”) are attached to produce the film alongside Dabis.
Dabis made her feature directorial debut in 2009 with “Amreeka,” a film about a Christian Palestinian woman raising her son in a small Indiana town. It won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes in 2009. Among Dabis’ other directing credits are “May in the Summer” and episodes of “The D Word” and “Empire.” She serves as producer on the latter and on “Quantico.”
In an interview with Women and Hollywood, Dabis stressed that “it can be really, really tough” for women trying to break into the business. “I think you just have to approach it from many different angles. You have to have so many balls in the air at the same time, and it can be really exhausting, but I think that tenacity and persistence are some of the most important things,” she said. “There are so many ways to get discouraged, but you just can’t allow yourself go there. You just have to always rise up and keep going.”