By Gregory Crofton
Procedural documentaries are some of my favorites. “American Factory” is an excellent addition to the genre.
It’s the first film released via Netflix by the Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. It tells the story of our global economy and what happens when cultures clash — think “Gung Ho” the 1986 comedy starring Michael Keaton.
General Motors shut down a factory in 2008, eliminating thousands of good-paying jobs in Dayton, Ohio. The factory was reopened in 2015 as an outpost for Fuyao, a Chinese auto glass corporation owned and run by billionaire.
Directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar live in Dayton and followed the story for years. Their dogged coverage is key to the film. One goal was to make sure the voices of workers from America and China were heard, and not from a certain point of view.
“One thing we tried to do with the film is to give everyone their voice,” says Steven Bognar, in press interview for the film that’s part of Netflix bonus feature.
The story becomes one of low wages (GM employees used to earn about $30 an hour – these workers ultimately make $14) and workplace injuries, which result in a push for workers to unionize.
“American Factory,” which won a Sundance Film Festival 2019 award for directing, began streaming via Netflix on Aug. 21st.