Combustible Celluloid
With: Junming 'Jimmy' Wang, Robert Allen, Sherrod Brown, Dave Burrows, Austin Cole, John Crane, John Gauthier, Rob Haerr, Cynthia Harper, Wong He, Timi Jernigan, Jill Lamantia, Jeff Daochuan Liu, Shawnea Rosser, Rebecca Ruan-O'Shaughnessy, Fred Strahorn, John Winthrop, Cho Tak Wong
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English, Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 08/21/2019

American Factory (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Baggage Cars

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This fascinating, but depressing documentary, the first from Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, takes a look at a General Motors factory in Dayton, Ohio, which had closed its doors but is now back in business again thanks to a Chinese investment. Workers are back, but at a decreased wage, and having to figure out how to work with their new Chinese cohorts. The Chinese, meanwhile, try to figure out how to deal with the Americans while still working up to their usual standards. The movie follows several subjects, including some Americans and Chinese that strike up successful friendships, to others that can't quite make it work. There's a constant friction here, between workers trying to make things click, and the unexpected cultural differences that keep tripping everyone up. Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert did bring on Chinese filmmakers to help round out the final product, but there's still the sense that American Factory is a Western-centered film, and no matter how hard one might try, could never shake its home field advantage.

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