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Mardi Gras: Made in China (Unrated)

Release Date: March 24th, 2006 (Cinema Village)
Directed by David Redmon.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the globalization of Mardi Gras beads from the streets of New Orleans to the bead factory in Fuzhou, China.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The first ten minutes show how much fun New Orleans partiers have while wearing the beads during Mardi Gras festivities. They all drink and shout while some of the women flash their boobs on command. Just when you think Mardi Gras Meanwhile, the young teenage factory workers who make the beads in China are not even remotely having this much fun. They work for no more than 10 cents an hour and for the majority of a 24-hour day under stressful working conditions. Roger Wong, the factory owner, rarely allows them for bathroom breaks and prohibits the girls from dating any of the boys so that they can concentrate on what’s more important to him: work. Director David Redmon wisely includes many interviews with Roger to get his perspective on the factory’s working conditions. Basically, Roger uses a punishment and reward system: if they produce beads above the day’s quota, they get paid more, but if they go below, he docks their salaries. Mardi Gras gets even more interesting when Redmon travels back to New Orleans to show his footage to the partiers and ends up getting a variety of reactions, some of which are quite humorous. Redmon also gets interesting reactions from the factory workers over in China when they see the footage from the streets of New Orleans. Fortunately, Mardi Gras is easy-to-follow, well-balanced and more entertaining than your average documentary. On top of that, Redmon wisely chooses not to narrate the film with preachy, arrogant (a.k.a. Michael Moore-style) voice-over narration. Therefore, he respects the audience’s intelligence without insulting or treating them like babies like Michael Moore tends to do.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: It shouldn’t be surprising to find out that workers in Third World countries get treated like machines: input, output, input, output. According to Roger, he treats his workers like he would his own children. If that were really his children, one could easily consider him to be a bad, domineering father. However, Redmon doesn’t portray him as necessarily a bad guy: he’s just doing his job to raise profits. In an insightful interview, Roger claims that his young workers are better off working in his factory rather than out in the rice fields. Are they truly better off? It’s hard to say, but what’s certain is that they are not given enough room to breathe at work. Moreover, one of the workers admits that she fears complaining about work—but what she truly fears, most likely, is Roger. According to brief interviews with the partiers in New Orleans, solutions to the poor working conditions are certainly not easy to come up with. In a sad but true way, such globalization problems are simply unavoidable, yet they are utterly important to acknowledge.



IN A NUTSHELL: Important, well-balanced, and eye-opening!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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