Analysis by Brandon Tensley, CNN
Updated 1:00 PM ET, Thu August 22, 2019
Washington (CNN) At a time when President Donald Trump seems to permeate nearly every aspect of American discourse, it might come as a surprise that the first movie from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, never mentions him by name.
But subtlety is part of the power of “American Factory,” the new Netflix documentary that charts the reopening of a factory in Dayton, Ohio. Over the course of two hours, the movie, directed by the seasoned documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, serves as a quiet historical and political corrective, offering their portrait of the state of America’s industrial heartland and prodding viewers to re-think who, exactly, is part of the American project.
“American Factory” starts on December 23, 2008, as a crowd gathers to learn that the General Motors plant in Dayton has shuttered. The movie then fast-forwards to 2015, when the plant reopens as a new enterprise, as Fuyao Glass America, the American arm of a Shanghai-based company that manufactures automotive glass. One man makes Fuyao’s expanded mission crystal clear: “What we’re doing is we’re melding two cultures together: the Chinese culture and the US culture. So we are truly a global organization.”