Doc about a Chinese billionaire taking over an abandoned Ohio factory is one of the fest's best
AMERICAN FACTORY (Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, U.S.). 115 minutes. Rating: NNNNN
Years after a GM plant closes in Ohio, Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang decides to buy and repurpose the abandoned factory to expand his Fuyao auto glass company, employing some out-of-work Rust Belt workers as well as hundreds brought in from China. Things do not go well.
When the factory starts losing money, Cao invites the Americans over to China to see how things are done needless to say, the work ethic is very different. Meanwhile, back in the States, some workers are trying to unionize.
Directors Bognar and Reichert – who gets an outstanding achievement retrospective this year – are granted impressive access to their subjects, and the camera is there for key moments, including a disastrous plant inspection. The film is balanced, giving equal sides to Americans and Chinese, although the score tries a little too hard to generate excitement.
Look for one employee’s joke about the first letters in Fuyao. And there’s a poignant moment near the end when Cao lets his guard down and sincerely talks about how he was much happier when he was poor. Not to be missed.