Hot off a Sundance win and with the backing of both Netflix and newly-minted film producers Barack and Michelle Obama, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s non-fiction stunner “American Factory” is gearing up for a big showing during this year’s Oscar race. An eye-popping look at the differences between American and Chinese workers when they come together at a Chinese car-glass factory in Ohio, the film won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary after it debuted at Sundance in January, becoming a top early contender in the 2020 Oscar race in the process.
The Participant Media production focuses on the dramatic culture clash when a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Following its Sundance premiere, the film impressed the Obamas, who launched their Netflix-partnered Higher Ground Productions last spring “to harness the power of storytelling,” as the former U.S. president described it at the time.
In his review out of Sundance, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote that the the film “extends beyond Trumpian rhetoric about the perils of the working class to examine the real tensions of international businesses in human terms.”
The film will hit the streaming platform later this month, along with a planned theatrical release, all the better to astound a wide viewership with its insightful commentary on commerce, community, and a changing economic world.
The duo aren’t strangers to either the glare of the awards season spotlight or the topic at hand: Bognar and Reichart were previously nominated in 2010 for the Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject. That film, “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” followed the very same Ohio-area automobile plant, going through some major changes a decade earlier.
“American Factory” marks the first title from Higher Ground to premiere on the streaming service, though the newly-announced slate includes a variety of inspirational projects that touch on a variety of subjects including race, class, democracy, civil rights and more. Among the Obamas’ initial Netflix projects are an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk” and a Frederick Douglass biopic.
Check out the newest trailer for “American Factory” below. As IndieWire exclusively reported earlier this year, Netflix will release the film in select theaters and on its streaming platform on August 21.