‘American Factory’

With General Motors closing its factory in Moraine, Ohio in 2008, more than a thousand people lost their jobs. A Chinese billionaire purchases the boarded up site some six years later looking to employ a mix of Chinese and Americans working side by side.

A decimated post-industrial Moraine welcomes investment from Fuyao Glass and the employment of locals – so much so it receives incentives from the State. But the honeymoon period is soon over as the culture clashes between Chinese expertise and local expectation create tension. With the skilled Chinese workers bought across from China, six or even seven day weeks are the norm with the assumption that working-class Americans would be the same, putting time with family second to the needs of the company. Health and safety is virtually non-existent, employment unsecured and wages are low.

American Factory is a sobering fly-on-the-wall documentary directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (9to5: the Story of a Movement, Making Morning Star). With access to workers, management, board meetings (China and Ohio), unions, it provides an insight not only into a US-versus-China story but first hand unravelling of the age-old capital versus labour. Problem is that American Factory is repetitive and, in spite of its scope, feels somewhat minor and parochial. The result is flat and strangely uninvolving.

Winner of the 2020 Oscar for best feature length documentary.

Rating: 54%


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