In 2014, 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.
About the Filmmakers
Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert are Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmakers whose work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and SXSW Film Festival; has screened on Independent Lens; and has won a Primetime Emmy. Their film The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant was nominated for an Academy Award. Reichert's first film, Growing Up Female, was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Reichert is the recipient of the 2018 IDA Career Achievement Award. Bognar's films Personal Belongings, Picture Day, and Gravel all premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.