Raising his glass at the Oscars


A Chinese business tycoon buying and running an Ohio factory (and periodically discussing Buddhism) may not sound like the sort of material likely to win an Oscar. Think again. American Factory – backed by Barack and Michelle Obama – has been shortlisted in the Best Documentary category for the Academy Awards, which take place in Hollywood on February 9. WiC wrote about this fascinating and insightful documentary at some length in issue 464, citing it as an example of classic Sino-US cultural misunderstanding – in both directions – and the limits of globalisation. The ‘star’ of the show is the hard-charging Cao Dewang, the 74 year-old founder of the auto industry giant Fuyao Glass (two out of three cars on China’s roads use Cao’s glass). In this fly-on-the-wall documentary we see his struggles with his new American workforce and the contrasts with the Chinese workers back in Fuqing, the city in Fujian province where the manufacturer is headquartered.

The film is wittingly and unwittingly funny, at other times deeply sad, and at times unmasks racism that’s mutually felt by the American and Chinese workers (and executives) who appear. Cao will fly to the US to attend the 92nd Academy Awards – with netizens in China joking he is the only Chinese shortlisted for an Oscar this year. He told CBN he was very calm ahead of his trip and was only going to support the directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. “The shooting of this film was hard and showed dedication,” Cao commented. “Regarding to the result, I am a Buddhist and I will not be excited or frustrated by winning or not. The important thing is the process.” He told CBN with slightly more certainty that his once lossmaking US plant (depicted in the red for much of the film’s duration) made a profit of Rmb150 million ($21.62 million) in the first half of 2019 and this month Fuyao Glass USA said 100 new jobs would be added as $46 million was invested in new equipment. Perhaps a happy ending, after all…













Keeping track, Feb 14, 2019: American Factory won the Oscar for best documentary on February 9th. Co-producer Mijie Li and Fuyao’s boss Cao Dewang, however, were unable to travel from China to attend the ceremony due to the coronavirus travel ban issued by the Trump administration…

















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