Documentary filmmakers have been building an esteemed and solidly accumulating tradition of newsworthy truth seeking, as the actual news – expropriated and disseminated by the corporate media – expands its elaborate web of deceit and self-serving propaganda masquerading as fact. This critical role that documentaries would play in modern times, could not be anticipated. But the courage and determination of many of these alternative filmmakers is emerging as a key intellectual and ideological force in relation to contemporary grass roots protest and activism.
David Redmon’s Mardi Gras: Made In China joins these ranks in a crucial challenge to the commercial media. By tracing a clear line in his investigative documentary from the grueling, exploitative adolescent labor at a Mardi Gras Asian bead factory to the casual disposable commodity culture of the beads among the drunken holiday revelers on New Orleans’ pre-Katrina Bourbon Street, Redmon concretizes the euphemistic abstractions of globalization. And he re-connects the deliberately fragmented news that impedes any mass cognitive comprehension and linkage of past, present and future human history.
Misreading the filmmaker’s curiosity for his subject as positive enthusiasm, Tai Kuen bead factory owner Roger Wong allows Redmon extensive access to his neo-liberal assembly line indoor plantation. Here a vulnerable and easily manipulated deliberated under-age factory crew of mostly female teens, toils two thirds of the day with burnt fingertips from soldering the necklaces, for a few dollars a week. And all the while that the Hong Kong based post-market economy Mainland carpetbagger Wong boasts about his two million dollar a year factory profits.
Wong adds in tough love self-righteous tones, that the live-in workers, virtual prisoners, may socialize only on Sundays, and are routinely docked a month’s pay if they’re discovered talking to each other in the factory. As Wong insists that they’re all just one happy family and would never think about striking, even as the workers describe previous strikes to Redmon, it becomes clear that he welcomed the filmmaker into the factory with open arms because he assumed Redmon would simply believe all his lies.
Later on in the film, Redmon returns to the US and Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, posing the question to an assortment of inebriated outdoor hell-raisers, as to whether they’ve ever wondered where their party beads came from, and under what horrific circumstances. The few who are even curious enough to care, are shown mini-footage of the factory drudgery, right then and there. The sobering point being made here, is that knowledge itself may be the key to consciousness and social change.
Mardi-Gras: Made In China appears to be yet another exceptionally worthy addition to the evolving genre of what may be termed anti-globalization cinema. Watch for much more of the same in the near future. But if we pass up these essential opportunities to think globally, we will surely suffer in silence locally.
David Redmon makes documentaries as part of the Calle Y Media Collective, with headquarters in Venezuela. His website is: www.mardigrasmadeinchina.com.
DVD Features: Feature-length Commentary by Filmmaker David Redmon and Assistant Producer Ashley Sabin; Over an hour of additional footage from Miami, Cancun, New Orleans, China, Iraq, and Washington DC.; Additional interviews with Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt, Saskia Sassen, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Mike Presdee; Trailers of Upcoming Films.