In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
“The film’s promotional material emphasizes a clash of cultures that supposedly constitutes the major obstacle to a mutually beneficial relationship between the Chinese firm and its American employees. In a short feature that accompanies the film, Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Higher Ground Productions picked American Factory as its first project, posit ‘storytelling’ as an alchemical solvent through which contradictions can be transcended. The raw data of the film, on the other hand, communicates something much different. The major clash in American Factory is not between American and Chinese, but between workers and managers. ‘Culture’ is a poor stand-in for power, leverage, and exploitation, the real subjects of this film, which know no national boundary.”