When a Chinese company opens a factory in small-town Ohio, the struggle for labor rights gets complicated. A mother wrestles with raising her newborn child amidst the devastation of the Syrian war. A dream of democracy goes unrealized in Brazil.
These are the stories behind three Ford-supported films we’re thrilled to share have earned nominations for Best Documentary at the 2020 Academy Awards. As part of our work in Creativity and Free Expression, we support artists and films that shed light on issues around the world and amplify the perspectives of people too often left out of the global conversation. We’re excited to see these documentaries—supported by the JustFilms and journalism teams and tackling important subjects in Brazil, America, China and Syria—capture the attention of the film industry and audiences, far and wide.
Directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichart and produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground, American Factory looks at what happens when a Chinese company comes to Moraine, Ohio to reopen a shuttered General Motors plant. In 2014, Fuyao, a glass manufacturing company, buys the factory, hiring more than 2,000 American workers and reviving a struggling town. Early days of hope and opportunity quickly give way to setbacks and strife as global capital collides with working-class America and China, ultimately taking a toll on Fuyao’s business and the workers who rely on it. The filmmakers—Ohio natives who also documented the shutdown of the GM factory in 2009’s The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant—have created a telling, deeply human exploration of the past, present and future of American and Chinese labor and a rapidly evolving globalized economy.
American Factory, which took home the 2019 Sundance award for U.S. documentary, is streaming on Netflix.
For Sama is a raw, intimate portrait of the female experience of the Syrian war, told through the lens of young mother and filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab. Dedicated to her daughter, Sama, born and raised amidst the war, the film follows al-Kateab over the course of five years as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth. Al-Kateab and co-director Ed Watts pair those precious everyday moments with harrowing images of a country under siege, creating a powerful personal narrative inescapably woven into a larger political story that shows how life carries on despite the brutal chaos of war. Produced by BUILD grantee PBS’s Frontline, For Sama has won more than 30 awards, keeping a spotlight on the Syrian conflict and bringing attention to the daily lives of the estimated four million children born since the war’s start.
Named best documentary at the Cannes Film Festival, the film is available to view on PBS.org.
The Edge of Democracy
In the The Edge of Democracy, Brazilian director Petra Costa attempts to reckon with her homeland’s political past and present—and the fraying of its democratic fabric. Artfully blending journalism with a memoir of her life and that of her political family, Costa chronicles an ideologically torn country as it transitions between the impeachment of one president and the imprisonment of another. The sobering film documents the rise and fall of the Workers’ Party and its leftist leaders Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the nation descends back into populism, leaving a long-held dream of democracy shattered. At once vast and intimate, the film provides audiences with a proximity to the current state of Brazilian politics with remarkable access and archival footage while exploring its impact on her family and the population at large.
The Edge of Democracy, which premiered at Sundance, can be streamed on Netflix.