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Fuyao Glass' openness seen as key to American Factory's Oscar

By Hong Xiao in New York | | Updated: 2020-02-11 12:54
Cho Tak Wong, chairman of Fuyao Glass Industry Group, speaks at the 2020 Lunar New Year Gala hosted by China General Chamber of Commerce–USA and its Foundation on Wednesday in New York. [Photo by Hong Xiao / China Daily]

When a husband-and-wife team wanted to make a documentary on a Chinese-owned factory in Ohio, the company provided them open access.

Perhaps it was that unfiltered look at Fuyao Glass America in Moraine, Ohio, that helped motivate members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to award the film American Factory the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature on Sunday.

The documentary garnered heightened publicity in April 2019, after it was acquired by former US president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama's production company Higher Ground as the company's first project, in partnership with Netflix.

The film tells the story of Fuyao's first automotive-glass factory in the United States, which was set up at a shuttered General Motors plant in 2015, employing 2,000 local blue-collar workers. Fuyao, the largest auto-glass manufacturer in the world, is based in Fuqing, in East China's Fujian province.

A file photo dated July 26, 2019, shows a local worker installing a vehicle with the glass manufactured by Fuyao Glass Industry Group in NYC, US. [Photo/Xinhua]

"I think it's a worthy win, and in some ways I was surprised in watching the film that some of the people on the Chinese side, including the CEO of the Chinese corporation, was so open in his remarks; all of that made it into the film," said Stanley Rosen, a political science professor at the University of Southern California and an expert on Chinese film. "I think there were a lot of revealing aspects to that film."

The film details the difficulties stemming from cultural clashes between Chinese management and technicians and American workers at the company, providing a window on the impact of globalization in the workplace.

The Academy Award went to co-directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, a couple living in Dayton, Ohio. They shared the Oscar with producer Jeff Reichert.

"Our film is from Ohio and China," Reichert said in her acceptance speech. "But it really could be from anywhere that people put on a uniform and punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life."

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