Word is leaking out from Deadline.com that Netflix is negotiating a deal to acquire the world rights to the documentary that premiered last Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah.
Directed by Yellow Springs residents Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, the documentary can be considered a follow up to their 2009 film The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, which followed the final days of the GM factory — the same space that now houses Fuyao. In 2009, that film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
“American Factory” follows a Chinese billionaire opened a Fuyao factory in a shuttered General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio. For thousands of locals, the arrival of this multinational car-glass manufacturer meant regaining their jobs—and dignity—after the recession left them high and dry. American Factory takes us inside the facility to observe what happens when workers from profoundly different cultures collide.
At first, the culture clash is humorous. Transplanted Chinese workers attend trainings on dealing with their peculiarly casual and “chatty” American counterparts. But tensions mount. Slack safety standards and meager wages ignite serious doubts among the American rank and file. Low productivity and talk of unionization trigger a cascade of controls from Chinese management. Meanwhile, something ominous—the specter of job loss from automation—looms.
With precision and astonishing access, directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar capture every key moment in this high-stakes intercultural chess game, revealing how American and Chinese workers view themselves within systems of authority. What results is an epic masterwork about the future of American labor and Chinese economic dominance, all within the confines of a factory in Ohio.
The film was financed by Participant Media and is produced by Bognar, Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello. The co-producers are Mijie Li and Yiqian Zhang, with Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann the exec producers.