American Factory

3/10 How this movie won Best Documentary at the most recent Academy Awards is pretty baffling to me seeing as how this is not a good movie and now that I have seen three of the five Best Documentary nominees, I can say that they were all insultingly underwhelming. Let’s dive right into the many problems with this documentary. First of all, the biggest problem is that it’s just flat out dry and boring. There is nothing really engaging, engrossing, shocking or stimulating about factory unions. Clocking in at just under two hours, part of the boredom comes due to the long running time and slow pacing. The film makers could have easily trimmed a good 20 minutes to bring this to a much more palpable hour and a half. The score is extremely forgettable and pretty run of the mill. The best documentaries give you protagonists or antagonists at the center of them to root for or root against (see Alex Honnold in “Free Solo” or Joe Exotic in “The Tiger King”) but here, we don’t get enough time with anyone to fully get to know them and the person we probably see on screen the most is the Chinese chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, who not only doesn’t have any screen presence but also is probably not the best person to be the figurehead of this documentary. Another problem the movie has is how it keeps shifting topics. The movie starts off talking about factories across America, then dives into this specific factory in Ohio, then flirts with the cultural differences between China and America, takes a left turn into the union debate and ends up touching on automation without looking deep into it at all. The lack of focus and this incoherent narrative distracts and makes even summarizing the movie difficult to accomplish. The movie would have greatly benefitted to interview less people for a longer amount of time so we could have gotten to know them better (a white, male factory worker and a young, Chinese factory worker who become friends provide the highlight of the movie) instead of focusing on more people for less time. A classic case of quality over quantity could have really helped. The positive aspects are that the production values are high, the access to both the American factory and the Chinese sites are impressive, the film makers were able to capture people being extremely open and honest and the B roll footage worked. Despite those positive aspects, this boring movie can definitely be skipped because it was about as much fun to sit through as a mandatory meeting from a union representative.

#DocumentaryMao / #TheXFactory / #GMGovernmentMotors / #LostInAutomation / #ShanghaiWorkNights / #UnsatisFactory

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