“American Factory,” a documentary by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, focuses on an auto plant in Moraine, Ohio, where 10,000 local jobs were lost. The film is startling, heartfelt, pointed, and more than a little scary.
When the Moraine factory closed in 2008, Fuyao Glass, a Chinese company came in and re-opened it in 2010. The workers were relieved, thinking they had economic security.
Enter Chairman Cao, a smiling amiable business man who has a grand opening for the new Fuyao operation in the former GM plant.
Everything goes smoothly, except for one man: Senator Sherrod Brown, who mentions the positivity of unions.
Cao is not amused; if the unions arrive, he is shutting the doors.
A Chinese supervisor briefs the workers on cultural differences. Americans are casual. Their personalities roam free. They can criticize the president and speak what is on their minds. They also do not care for abstraction or theory and the cars are big.
At first, all seems well. Some workers take a trip to China and are treated with great fanfare. There is a light show and kitschy disco dances along with cross cultural skits and weddings. A higher up says China and America are one, forming an unbreakable bond.
The employees speak up. Jill cannot make ends meet. She lives in her sister’s basement. Years ago, they were paid about 25 dollars an hour, now they earn 14. And then there are the accidents. There are needless burns. Glass explodes without warning.
The drums of a union begin to pound. Enthusiasm grows. One worker / supporter is escorted out. Chairman Cao is unmoved.
Jill, a veteran of the plant, is fired for her union stance.
All of the events unfold with the terrible realization of a horror film.
It becomes clear that Chairman Cao does not represent the best interest of his human workers, be they male or female.
“American Factory” is a striking slice of life film, nominated for Best Documentary, highlighting the gulf and some of the animosity between the East and West. Take cover and watch the factory floor. Artificial Intelligence is coming and it may well be out for all carbon based life forms, no matter which country we happen to champion.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org