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China Blue is a powerful documentary film.
It exposes the non-glamorous side of globalization as to how the workers desperate for work in developing nations are exploited to manufacture cheap goods for consumers in developed nations. It covers both the sweatshop conditions in factories in china and the growing importance of china as an exporting country on a global scale.
This film focuses on a garment factory in china which manufactures denim jeans for its western bosses like Wal-Mart, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger etc. who buy the jeans at very cheap rate and sell them to their consumers in the western countries at such a low price which they have never seen before.
Before watching this documentary I was always amazed at the high quality goods manufactured by china sold at such a cheap price. But, after seeing this documentary it is now clear that behind every Chinese made commodity we purchase there are many people who have worked on it against their will.
This film is shot in secrecy and revolves around the life of a seventeen year old girl, Jasmine who works in a denim factory for pennies a day. Inspired by few of her friends who dared to venture out and the news of china’s advancement into the 21st century which is broadcasted on all television channels she migrates alone from rural China to a urban town called Shaxi. Here she is in search of work and is soon admitted into a denim factory.
The factory never misses its deadline even if it requires its employees to work overtime at all times. For this no extra pay is awarded to them.
Jasmine starts working enthusiastically and instructions are given to her that she must obey her supervisor at all times. She is happy with what is being paid to her but soon the work starts becoming a routine and in a few weeks time like other workers she is working against her will and her energy starts draining out. 16 hours a day in factory with barely 2 breaks for meals(whose cost is cut from their salaries) and plus some time for writing her diary which she cannot avoid at any cost as this is the only time when she is with herself and can empty her mind of all her frustrations and secret thoughts - leaves her only 2 hours for sleep many times. Her health starts deteriorating and she can hardly concentrate on her work. But she has to try to focus or else she will loose her job as the factories believe in hire and fire policy.
Meanwhile the factory is forging deals with foreign companies. There is a scene in which the boss of the factory is striking a deal with a Indian who is a negotiator for a company at Newcastle, Britain and they are negotiating on the price. The boss, Mr. Lam asks the translator to convey the cost of jeans as$4.2.
Indian: 4.2 is too much. Honestly… let it be at 4 dollars.
Translator: 4 dollars?!?.( Mr. Lam says 4.1). let it be$ 4.1
Indian: It’s a deal.
The deal is struck and Mr. Lam moves towards his factory. To avoid losing on such deals Mr. Lam cuts costs where he can, by reducing workers’ pay.
Mr Lam was a police chief who retired and setup this factory. He is proud of his achievement and fond of creative pursuits like calligraphy. He has to keep his workers motivated. He does this by promoting the good ones and firing the bad ones and ofcourse by posting slogans like:
“If you don’t work hard today, you will look hard for work tomorrow”
The work pressure increases and every second is squeezed out of them. New year approaches and the workers want to visit home to see their families. The management does not pay them their salaries for the last 2 months so that the workers don’t run away. Soon there is a protest and they argue that after paying for the food they have no money to return home. The boss promises the pay as soon as the work is finished.
The work is finished as per the deadline and workers receive their payment. Mr. Lam had a good year. His workers – those who can afford it – will soon go home for the New Year’s family reunion.
Producer: Micha X Peled
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