In 2016, Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang starts executing a bold plan, buying up a shuttered General Motors factory outside Dayton, Ohio and hiring a large number of American employees to work in what becomes the U.S outpost of Fuyao, his global auto glass manufacturing company. Initially, there’s a mood of cautious optimism, as many of these workers are grateful for the work and hoping to revive their economically depressed community. However, over time this gives way to friction and conflict as two very different cultures increasingly clash in the workplace.
Married Ohioans Bognar and Reichert capture the complex outcome of a fascinating experiment: what happens when two diametrically opposed superpower nations actually try to work together under one roof. The results are not promising: the American division starts to lose money, and the American employees’ ingrained sense of individual rights and freedoms butt up against the more rigid, success-at-all-costs perspective of their Chinese bosses. We then visit the Fuyao headquarters in China, which only emphasizes the stark differences in how these two societies function. A deeply revealing work that never strays too far from the human element, “American Factory” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The award is richly earned.