Is there a way of significantly offsetting the problem of globalization or is its engine of power—fueled by a profiteering trade of commodities and labor that’s been stewing and building to a boil since time immemorial—too hot to tamper with? It’s a question David Redmon’s compelling Mardi Gras: Made in China seems to ask but doesn’t pretend to answer. Redmon reveals how the disposable commodity of Mardi Gras beads comes to us by way of Fuzhou’s Tai Kuen factory, whose predominantly female workers toil away for up to 20 hours a day for 10 cents an hour to supply our transitory pleasures. Redmon is impressively hands-off, allowing the material to speak for itself about the headless beast of globalization: on Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras party people flash their bits and pieces for trinkets that will mean nothing to them after the next day’s hangover, and in China, the director startlingly illuminates the poor working conditions and the even poorer treatment the people at the Tai Kuen factory are subjected to on a daily basis. In showing groups of Mardi Gras revelers footage from the factory, and, later, the people at the factory pictures of the Mardi Gras celebration, Redmon means to put the exchange of beads in startling perspective for both parties, but the documentary understands our differing cost of livings and the scarce opportunities afforded to people without educations, and as such doesn’t naïvely advocate that we stop consuming products acquired by third world countries under shady circumstances. Globalization may be something that can’t be stopped but that doesn’t mean that the corporatist greed that continues to augment people’s hardships can’t be rectified. In short, it’s not the cost of living that’s precarious but the cost of work, and if Redmon’s disturbing interactions with some Mardi Gras partiers who’d rather see boobies than his Tai Kuen footage are any indication, the director’s goal is simply to inspire empathy.
- 72 min
- David Redmon
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