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Inside The First Netflix Movie To Get The Obama's Stamp Of Approval



In January, Fresh off the movie's acclaimed premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar to acquire their new movie "American Factory", there were also executives from Higher Ground Productions in the room.

Reichert and Bognar's documentary

Winner of Sundance's directing award for best US

documentary ̵

1; What happened in 2014 when Fuyao, a Chinese glass company, resurrected a former General Motors planning outside of Dayton, Ohio, near where the filmmakers live.

As the co-directors later learned, the executives worked with former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama's production company, created last May in conjunction with their Netflix deal . Since then, the Obama have been working at Netflix under wraps. a series of movies and series including a biopic about Frederick Douglass, a period drama series by the screenwriter of "Thelma & Louise," a documentary show based on The

"American Factory," premiering Wednesday on Netflix,

Unlike the Obama's' other still-gestating 'New York Times' "Overlooked" obituary series and a children's show about vegetables projects, "American Factory" had already been finished when Netflix and Higher Ground acquired it, so the company did not make any involvement in the documentary, according to Reichert and Bognar. However, they're grateful that the Obama's 'stamp of approval is likely', said Brockar.



"American Factory" co-directors Julia Reichert (left) and Steven Bognar (right). Their documentary is the first Netflix project to be released under the banner of Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground Productions.

In July, the documentarians with the former president & first lady in Washington. The first of them is Netflix production.

"They're wonderful people," Reichert said of meeting them. "It was amazing when we heard that the president and the first lady had seen our movie, and wanted to embrace it and wanted to elevate us as filmmakers. I mean, they are very much into artists and writers. "

" American Factory "are often cultural issues too. The documentary excels at the end of the daily headlines about trade and globalization, showing a Chinese company in its own right in America and getting Chinese and American employees to work side by side, and how the problem arises come to fundamentally different ideas about work. [19659002] Reichert and Bognar previously covered the plant's closure during the Great Recession in the 2009 HBO documentary "The Last Truck." They said they had not intended to revisit the subject, but the chronicling of the American plant's rebirth under a Chinese company would make for a compelling story.

The film's fly-on-the-wall view and taut editing. Initially, the community welcomes Fuyao's presence and the promise of economic opportunity for the region. Publicly, company executives project on image of unity, striving to integrate the Chinese and American workers and their practices. [19659002] But privately, the process quickly goes south. As the film shows, Fuyao, like many companies in China, tries to circumvent many safety procedures and worker protections in the name of efficiency. The Dayton plans to deliver the same levels of glass production as those of Fuyao's factories in China. The Chinese workers are driven by the Chinese executives.

We wanted to put you in the shoes of both executives and the workers, the Chinese and the Americans.
"American Factory" co-director Steven Bognar

Fuzhou, Fuyao's main section of Fuzhou China. The trip exposes fundamental differences: Chinese workers focus on uniformity and efficiency, and working long hours, getting only one or two days off per month. As a result, they look down on the American workers – who work standard eight-hour days and get weekends off – as "lazy" and too "chatty" at work.

Reichert and Bognar said that visiting China helped them better understand the larger context informing the differences between Chinese and American workers. Unlike the "beating down" of the last few decades, workers in China are "coming out of rural poverty," Reichert said, adding to their greater sense of optimism and commitment.

"That was something 12-hour days, "Reichert said." What are you talking about? " "The Chinese, they may not like working 12-hour days, but they're willing to do it. It's their expectation. "

After a string of workplace injuries due to lax safety procedures, the American workers begin to deal with the United Auto Workers. In response, the company executives engage in union busting – a maneuver that the filmmakers emphasize is, ironically, modeled on those used by their American counterparts. Fuyao hires is a "union avoidance consultant" to intimidate and dissuade workers from voting to unionize. In addition to dividing workers, the union busting takes on an added cultural element. In the film, Fuyao's billionaire chairman

Much of "American Factory" is a tense and at times frustrating saga. But the documentary also seeks to humanize everyone involved. There are moments when the American and Chinese workers try to get each other. And with the help of Chinese producers and translators, Reichert and Bognar tell the stories of individual Chinese workers, many of whom left their families behind in China to move to Dayton.

While their film succeeds as a big-picture examination of

"We're just feeling our way around for months and months," Bognar said of their filming process. "We're filming, but we're learning, getting the feel of the rhythms of the place, the who's who, the interpersonal dynamics, all that stuff."

film's nuanced take, Bognar said.

"We wanted to put you in the shoes of both the executives and the workers, the Chinese and the Americans. It's almost like, you remember that show 'Downton Abbey'? So you're with the aristocracy, and you're with the butlers and the maids, "he said. Without judgment, so you have empathy for everyone.

"American Factory" premieres Wednesday on Netflix.