American Factory Puts Americans Back To Work

Rob Haerr and Wong He from AMERICAN FACTORY. Photo by Ian Cook

American Factory follows what happened when a Chinese billionaire hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans in a previously closed GM factory.

Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert spent three years on this film.  Their efforts to capture Fuyao Glass America’s new plant are worth it in the end.  After all, nobody could have predicted the plant re-opening when General Motors closed the doors in 2008.  While 2,400 would lost their jobs in 2008, some 2,000 would get employed when the Moraine, Ohio plant re-opened in 2014.  Americans wouldn’t just be working again but they’d also be working alongside Chinese employees.  Is this the new normal?  Maybe.

When things started to get underway, things did not look promising.  The language barrier would prove to be…well, just that.  Moreover, both China and America have very different cultures.  While Americans enjoy a traditional 8-hour work day, the same cannot be said about China.  They tend to work longer hours.  Naturally, there’s going to be a clash.  This clash is very well documented in the film.

This is a film that captures moments that probably wouldn’t be captured in any other way.  It’s one of the joys of making a documentary.  Even one that took some three years to shoot, you never know what you’re going to see on any given day.  Funny enough, both filmmakers were on hand for the final days in 2008.  Interestingly enough, the final days led to an Oscar nomination for The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.  Life has a funny way of working out and they could very well have another run at the Oscars.

This film doesn’t happen without Fuyao Glass Industry Group founder/chairman/CEO Cao Dewang.  It was the CEO who decided to commission a film.  The two filmmakers had another idea in mind.  They would work on a film but it’s not exactly what Dewang had in mind.  When you take into account what GM meant to this city, it’s kind of ironic that a shuddered GM plant would see work once more.  Not under GM’s name but under the Fuyao brand.  For this, we should be grateful because the plant put Americans back to work.

The Obamas decided to attach their names to the documentary as a part of their Netflix deal.  When you watch the film, you can understand why they added their names to the documentary.  When all is said and done, American Factory is going to be one of the most essential documentaries of the year.

DIRECTORS:  Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert

Netflix launches American Factory on August 21, 2019. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.