Matthew Henry John Bartlett

+64 27 211 3455
email me

Thursday 19 November, 02020

American Factory

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:45 am

American Factory' review: Obamas deliver nuanced Netflix doc - SupChina

American Factory, which is on Netflix, and which Dad tells me was funded by the Obamas, is very much worth watching. It’s the story of the Chinese resuscitation of a windshield factory in Dayton, Ohio.

The film is beautiful to look at, and offers many insights into what life might feel like for workers in the superpowers. Driving the film are the obvious clashes of culture and interests, plus a fight about whether to unionise (the Workers’ Paradise has strong feelings about unions not controlled by the CCCP). You can imagine how Trump might have some appeal in this world — ‘Make America Great Again’ might be heard as ‘put the Americans back in charge of our factory’ or ‘put our wages back up to $29/hour’ (rather than the US$14/hour starter rate under the new management). Amazing to me is the degree of access the filmmakers got — as well as the many interviews with people at all levels of the plant, you get to listen in (well, read the translation) when the Chinese boss explains to the Chinese portion of the staff how to deal with American workers who’ve been pampered since birth.

Michele Obama made the ridiculous comment that the film ‘doesn’t come in with a perspective; it’s not an editorial’ (and can you believe they call their production company ‘Higher Ground’?); much more illuminating is an interview with the filmmakers, Julia Reichert & Steve Bognar, by the Centre for Media and Social Impact, which I gather was published closer to the time of a previous film of theirs about the earlier closure of the same factory, when it was owned by General Motors.

Leave a Reply