Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mardi Gras: Made in China (2006)

Liberal-problem documentary hampered by ineffectual filmmaking. By ineffectual, I don't mean that the technical aspects of the film are incompetent -- it's pretty standard-issue stuff in that regard, with pallid DV photography that is a necessary evil these days in the world of low-budget documentary. What I refer to, rather, is the lack of balls on the part of director/interviewer David Redmon. His intentions are good, but he's not much for confrontation. I appreciate the fact that he'd rather let the images and words of his participants speak for themselves, and I also recognize that, on some level, this passive approach was necessary to get some of the footage he got. The fact remains, though, that this passivity leads to a couple points being made early on, after which the film has nothing left. It retreads over the same stuff (globalization is bad, Chinese labor is exploited, Americans don't really know or care) without any new insight or angle. Factory owner Raymond Wong, in particular, is a wasted opportunity: Sitting at his desk, all smiles as he explains that his factory is one of the finest and most humane in China and that his workers are happy and well-treated even as we see the opposite, this guy comes off as a muckraker's dream. Redmon could nail this motherfucker to the wall if he wanted, but, some late-film provocation aside, he prefers to let Wong hang himself. This, then, renders the film a bit toothless. At the end of it, what do we have? A couple drunken revelers on Bourbon Street have had their consciousnesses briefly raised. Good for you, I guess, Mr. Redmon, but I weep to imagine what Michael Moore or Robert Greenwald could have made of this.

Grade: C+


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