American Factory (2019)

DailyView: Day 256, Movie 359

American Factory was a documentary on Netflix from 2019 that wound up winning an Academy Award for best documentary at the Oscars. I think one of the big reasons why this doc received such accolades was the fact that this was the first film acquired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground Productions. Of course, it was also because it was a well told story filled with a ton of drama and compelling stories.

American Factory told the stories of the workers of a Chinese glasswork plant called Fuyao, that had relocated outside of Dayton, Ohio, with plenty of promises of better jobs and chance to create a cultural connection with another arm of workers. Both American workers and Chinese workers were hired for positions within the company and the doc spent a good deal of time emphasizing the differences between the culture and the work ethics of the two group of workers. It was intriguing to hear what the Chinese workers thought of their American counterparts, who approached the job in a much different manner.

The doc was directed by Julie Reichert and Steven Bognar was also able to highlight the conflict between workers and their bosses, and followed the attempt to unionize the plant as well as the efforts to keep the union from gaining a foothold inside Fuyao.

There some fascinating film of a trip by the American bosses to the plant in China. It included a New Year’s Eve party thrown by the company that included singing and dancing, as well as weddings. It was an amazing cultural example of how differently we approached these events.

One of the best parts of the doc was that the stories were all balanced out. They did not favor one over the others. The documentarians provided the images and the narrative and allowed it to speak for itself.

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