American Factory
Traditional Chinese美國工廠
Simplified Chinese美国工厂
Hanyu PinyinMěiguó Gōngchǎng
Directed by
Produced by
  • Jeff Reichert
  • Julie Parker Benello
  • Steven Bognar
  • Aubrey Keith
  • Jeff Reichert
  • Julia Reichert
  • Erick Stoll
Edited byLindsay Utz
Music byChad Cannon
Distributed byNetflix
Release dates
  • January 25, 2019 (2019-01-25) (Sundance)
  • August 21, 2019 (2019-08-21) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Mandarin

American Factory (Chinese: 美国工厂) is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, about Chinese company Fuyao's factory in Moraine, a city near Dayton, Ohio, that occupies Moraine Assembly, a shuttered General Motors plant. The film had its festival premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It is distributed by Netflix and is the first film acquired by Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground Productions.[1][2][3] It won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[4]


In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.


Filmed from February 2015 until the end of 2017, Reichert and Bognar were granted filming access by Fuyao at both their Ohio and Chinese plant locations. They were inspired to make this film as the events they aimed to depict were taking place in the same Moraine Assembly plant once occupied by General Motors, which was the central topic of their 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary short The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.[5]

The Mandarin Chinese language portions of the film were facilitated by the inclusion of two Chinese filmmakers, Yiqian Zhang and Mijie Li, one or both of whom would travel to Ohio monthly. The directors credit these two as essential in providing a connection to the Chinese subjects depicted in the film.[5]


The filmmakers implemented a fly-on-the-wall documentary filmmaking approach, in which no dialogue external to the subjects of the film is included, and the sounds of the factory and the dialogue of the workers is prioritized. In order to make focal such an audio/visual approach, the filmmakers implemented the use of lavalier microphones to effectively balance worker dialogue amid noise emanating from the factory's machinery. The voice-over narration provided by the factory workers was often recorded at their respective homes, independently from the factory setting. According to Bognar, implementing the film's narration in this way created an effect of depicting a worker's inner monologue.[5]


Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 94 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The website's consensus reads: "American Factory takes a thoughtful -- and troubling -- look at the dynamic between workers and employers in the 21st-century globalized economy."[6] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 86 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[7]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times stated: "American Factory is political without being self-servingly didactic or strident, connecting the sociopolitical dots intelligently, sometimes with the help of a stirring score from Chad Cannon that evokes Aaron Copland. The filmmakers don't villainize anyone, though a few participants come awfully close to twirling waxed mustaches, like an American manager who jokes to a Chinese colleague that it would be a good idea to duct-tape the mouths of talky American workers."[8] David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote: "It's a great, expansive, deeply humanist work, angry but empathetic to its core. It gestures toward the end of the working world we know – and to the rise of the machines."[9] Eric Kohn at IndieWire described it as "A fascinating tragicomedy about the incompatibility of American and Chinese industries."[10]


Main article: List of accolades received by American Factory

The film won Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards.[11][12] It received three nominations at the 72nd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, winning Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program for Bognar and Reichert.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 1, 2019). "Netflix Acquiring Sundance Documentary 'American Factory'". Deadline Hollywood.
  2. ^ "'American Factory': When A Chinese Company Takes Over An Ohio Factory". NPR. August 21, 2019.
  3. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra. "Barack and Michelle Obama's production company scores first Oscar nomination". CNN. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  4. ^ "American Factory" wins Best Documentary Feature - Oscars on YouTube
  5. ^ a b c Wilkinson, Alissa (August 21, 2019). "Work is going global. American Factory's directors explain how they captured its challenges". Vox. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  6. ^ "American Factory". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 21, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ "American Factory". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved June 21, 2023.
  8. ^ Dargis, Manohla (August 20, 2019). "'American Factory' Review: The New Global Haves and Have-Nots". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 25, 2023. Retrieved June 21, 2023.
  9. ^ David Edelstein (August 23, 2019). "The Obamas' Netflix Doc American Factory Gestures Toward the End of the Working World". New York Magazine.
  10. ^ Kohn, Eric (January 26, 2019). "American Factory' Review: A Cross-Cultural Working-Class Doc, Via 'The Office' – Sundance". IndieWire.
  11. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (February 9, 2020). "Obama-backed documentary 'American Factory' wins Oscar". CNN. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  12. ^ Perez, Lexy (February 9, 2020). "'American Factory' Co-Director, Battling Cancer, Accepts Win for Best Documentary Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 18, 2023. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  13. ^ Florence Jr., Russell (September 15, 2020). "Oscar-winning 'American Factory' directors win Emmy". Dayton Daily News. Archived from the original on October 5, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  14. ^ Haylock, Zoe (September 15, 2020). "All the Winners From Night One of the Creative Arts Emmys". Vulture. Archived from the original on December 25, 2022. Retrieved June 22, 2023.