Fuyao documentary debuts to sold-out enthusiasm at Sundance

The new locally made documentary about Fuyao Glass America debuted to sold-out audiences this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

The film — made by Yellow Springs filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert and their colleagues — chronicles the creation of the Chinese-owned automotive glass-factory in the same building that had once housed a General Motors assembly operation.

“We’ve had two sold-out screenings and a really strong audience response,” Bognar told the Dayton Daily News this weekend. “We are here with two current Fuyao workers (one Chinese and one American) and two former workers, and the audiences are really appreciating a chance to talk to them after the screenings.”

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The first reviews of the film are starting to come in.

ScreenDaily.com called the 115-minute work “skillfully constructed.”

“American Factory may not have the character-driven allure or celebrity factor of most successful theatrical docs, but it should be widely embraced by film festivals and TV buyers around the world, thanks to its incredible access and topical subject matter,” that web site said.

Fuyao gave Bognar and Reichert plenty of access for the film, letting them into management-worker meetings, among many other normally private settings.

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"'American Factory' pivots effortlessly between personal stories of the workers, whether a Chinese man whose left his family for two years to help train the Americans or an American worker who saw her wages cut by more than half going from GM to Fuyao, and the larger seemingly unbridgeable gap between the two sides," ScreenDaily says.

One Hollywood Reporter review was a bit more critical. That piece said the film's "underlying message" is that the "American Dream failed in Dayton when GM left — Bognar and Reichert chronicled that closure in the Oscar-nominated short 'The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant' — and the false hope offered by Fuyao might be in some ways worse. Unions, then, are what is left."

But Hollywood Reporter also identified "American Factory" as one of 12 movies at Sundance this year "that are sure to generate buzz." That article also cited Sundance programmers who called the film "a masterpiece."

Fuyao has about 2,300 workers in Moraine.

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