A documentary with regional roots is getting some love from the Sundace Film Festival, which announced its full 2019 lineup Nov. 28. (The fest will unfold Jan. 24-Feb. 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah.)
American Factory hones in on the Fuyao Glass auto glass plant located in Moraine, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.
According to the film's description on Sundance's website, a Chinese billionaire opened the new factory inside an abandoned one-time General Motors plant and hired 2,000 "blue-collar" Americans. "Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America," reads the description.
Directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar — both are Yellow Springs, Ohio residents — the screening will be the documentary's world premiere. The film joins 112 other features (of which 16 are documentaries) chosen from a record-breaking 14,259 submissions.
The doc comes on the heel of another: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, which followed the final days of the GM factory — the same space that now houses Fuyao. In 2009, the HBO film snagged an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Last year, The New York Times covered the cultural clash at the Fuyao factory in a longform feature. The issue playing out at Fuyao is a complex one — especially when it comes to disparate norms and work standards between the two nations. The NYT piece reported that Fuyao faced a host of employee complaints including "arbitrarily enforced rules" and exposure to harsh chemicals.
A workers' class-action lawsuit against Fuyao Glass is in the process, though it is still pre-trial. The company is being sued by 636 current and former workers of the plant, according to a Dayton Daily News story posted mid-October. Julia Staggs was the first to file suit in June 2017. She alleges she worked overtime without pay and that — along with co-workers — was not given appropriate break time.
The film's directors are both former professors at Wright State University; on Nov. 20, Reichert received the International Documentary Association's 2018 Career Achievement Award, which she'll be presented with Dec. 8.
Two of Reichart's other films are Academy Award nominees: 1977's Union Maids and 1984's Seeing Red.
For more info visit sundance.org.