The claim by China Blue‘s producers that their film was shot clandestinely is only true to a point. Though this documentary about a sweatshop in China that mass produces blue jeans demanded considerable evasion of police authority, it also would not have been possible without the full cooperation of Mr. Lam, a former police chief who is so proud of his new factory that he allowed director Micha X. Peled and his crew full access to his facilities and workers. Outside Mr. Lam’s plant, it is evident that China Blue‘s scenes were filmed with great fear—a hindrance apparent in the hurried attention given to the story of Orchid, a zipper installer who travels to her home for the first time in two years in order introduce her family to her boyfriend. At worst, the film may be considered part of a new breed of documentary mass-produced for Western eyes: Like Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story, it suggests an American television program, only in this case it doesn’t recall a true-crime exposé so much as it does a sitcom with its own theme song and cast of characters. Given the film’s lack of righteous indignation, some of Peled’s bad decisions are surprising, like the faux point-of-view shot from inside the camera that scans Mr. Lam’s factory floor throughout the day. But while the film does not benefit from the great power of contrast that was central to the superior Mardi Gras: Made in China, it becomes crucial for its very methodical study of life inside a sweatshop. Peled fiercely traces the inhumanity that makes the subjugation the runs rampant in Mr. Lam’s factory possible when an elitist foreign buyer complains about a late shipment of jeans; Mr. Lam, in order to appease his client, gives the man a discount on his next supply, forcing the factory owner to cut worker pay. Earlier, a shot of several Americans, including a ghoulish blond woman, touring the factory reveals how lackeys for big corporations like Walmart are easily tricked into believing that the working conditions at sweatshops are fair. From China to a jeans outlet near you, China Blue‘s greatest contribution is not to film culture but to human-rights activism, exposing myths and truths about our cruel global market.
- 88 min
- Micha X. Peled
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