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American Factory Wins Oscar

The documentary focused on the clash between a Chinese company and middle America

Daniel Hinton's picture
Feb 11, 2020

In the middle of one of the most opulent events hosted by the richest and most famous people in the entertainment industry, a documentary about American and Chinese factory workers was one of the highlights. The Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to American Factory, which is currently available via Netflix.

Documentarians Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar had been nominated by the Academy before, but they took full advantage of their first acceptance speech. Reichert, finally a winner after four nominations in her career, left shockwaves in the media when she ended her remarks with a quote from the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite!”

The media also fixated on the fact that American Factory is the first film produced by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Productions. The Obamas started the company in May 2018 when they signed a multi-year deal with Netflix.

“Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change,” Barack Obama tweeted during the show. “Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release.”

The documentary focuses on Chinese glass manufacturer Fuyao’s factory in Moraine, Ohio and the effects of macroeconomic changes on thousands of factory workers from the U.S. and China. The same factory, known as Moraine Assembly, was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary short by Reichert and Bognar when it was owned (and closed) by General Motors over a decade ago.

What makes the Academy Award even sweeter this time around is that the documentary actually deserves it. It’s no blockbuster, but everyone should watch it. American audiences will recognize most of the economic parts of the story set in the ol’ Rust Belt, and seeing them repeat with workers from the other side of the world makes the lessons even clearer.

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