Streaming: Netflix Run Time: 1hr 50 min Category:
I had high hopes as I started watching “American Factory,” considering it won Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars. And after watching, I can see why it won.
It feels like we are always talking about the auto industry, but also about the dangers of outsourcing American jobs. This documentary does a good job at showing the relationship between the two, but also how the topic has been flipped on its head.
We often talk about American companies buying factories in countries like China, India and Malaysia. This is the story of a Chinese company doing the same in America.
It begins with the closing of the Dayton Ohio General Motors plant in 2008. It just briefly touches on the economic turmoil the closure created for the families of Dayton and moves rather quickly to 2015 when Fuyao Glass, a Chinese company, purchased and reopened the plant.
The storytelling within this documentary is incredible, and I think that is what makes it such a good film.
It isn’t just one side of the story. The viewer gets to see the good, the bad and the ugly. It doesn’t stay focused on one person for long, but that allows for a variety of stories to be told. And not just the American stories. We get to hear from some of the Chinese employees who worked in the U.S. and then from those who worked in the factory in China as well.
We also get a look into the challenges created for this new company by the culture differences between China and the U.S. There are times where the documentary focuses on the heart-warming moments this creates, like when an American employee invited his Chinese colleagues to his Thanksgiving and took them for rides on his motorcycle.
But it also showcases the issues these cultural differences have created for the company, like what the standard of work is supposed to be, or what is expected when it comes to working conditions.
Toward the end, it focuses primarily on this differing expectation of working conditions. So, while the film starts out very hopeful, that hopefulness slowly goes away by the end.
I don’t want to give away too much or try to explain the whole movie because this is a movie I suggest everyone should see at some point.
Overall, this documentary was really eye-opening and informative. There is no doubt in my mind why it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.