American Factory review – a sobering documentary by the Obamas
This first film in their post-White House careers is an absorbing study of the culture clash in a Chinese-run Ohio car plant
‘There is no magic wand to bring back jobs,” said US president Barack Obama in 2016. Now he has returned to this sombre realist theme with the first documentary feature in his post-presidential career as a film producer (with Michelle Obama) for Netflix, under the banner of their company Higher Ground Productions. It’s a workplace study from directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert that is absorbing, discomfiting and desperately sad. American Factory is incidentally another example of how “American” as the first word of a title supercharges the movie with irony (American Hustle, American Gangster, American Psycho). The factory in question is far from American.
In 2014, the Chinese auto glass manufacturer Fuyao bought a former General Motors car plant in Dayton, Ohio, that had been closed since 2008 – promising investment and hundreds of new jobs. Fuyao and its chairman Cao Dewang (referred to as “Chairman Cao”) were rewarded with euphoric praise – in a state that had been crushed by unemployment – and more than $6m in subsidies from Ohio state taxpayers.Continue reading...