Former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have made their Hollywood film debut with the Netflix documentary American Factory, which is available on the streaming website since Wednesday.
American Factory examines a manufacturer in Ohio that is backed by a Chinese billionaire and operated by thousands of blue-collar Americans. Netflix acquired the documentary after the film’s success at Sundance film festival, where it won the directing award.
Cultures collide. Hope survives. When a Chinese billionaire re-opens a factory and hires two thousand blue-collar Americans, early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. #AmericanFactory pic.twitter.com/Maa7kTcfEY
— American Factory Film (@afactoryfilm) August 13, 2019
According to the Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, Obamas showed their interest in it after the Sundance, and they were pitching the film to Netflix. They were told the Obamas had screened it days earlier.
Netflix has released a brief clip of a conversation the Obamas had with Oscar-nominated American Factory filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, in which Obamas spoke about why they decided to go into the production after leaving the White House.
“One of the many things I love about this film … is that you let people tell their own story,” the former first lady said. “`American Factory’ doesn’t come in with a perspective. It’s not an editorial. I mean, you truly let people speak for themselves, and that is a powerful thing that you don’t always see happen”.
Barack and I want to help more people see their own story in someone else’s. It’s why we started Higher Ground Productions, and it’s what we talked about with Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, who directed @afactoryfilm. Check out their documentary, now streaming on @Netflix. https://t.co/8xjX7t9HL4
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) August 21, 2019
Former US President Obama said that they wanted people to look outside of their own experiences to understand the lives of others.
That “is what a good story does,” he said. “It helps all of us feel some solidarity with each other.”
Reichert said she’s seen some commentary that the Obamas were interested in the film as a criticism of Trump and said that was stupid.
“It has zero to do with Trump or Obama, or the political scene at all,” she added. “It’s about the lives of average working people in the heartland. It’s really a closeup and intimate look at what globalization looks like.”
In the documentary, one of the American workers is shown bonding with Chinese colleagues, inviting several to a Thanksgiving dinner and to drive his motorcycle. Later, the worker is fired because it took him too long to use a computer.
Reichter said that she and Bognar were grateful to Cao for allowing access to the factory. The company chairman mostly comes off as a cold-blooded capitalist, but one arresting scene toward the end shows him wrestling with his legacy.