China Blue takes us inside a blue-jeans factory, where Jasmine and her friends are trying to survive a harsh working environment. When the factory owner agrees to a deal with his Western ...
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China Blue takes us inside a blue-jeans factory, where Jasmine and her friends are trying to survive a harsh working environment. When the factory owner agrees to a deal with his Western client that forces his teenage workers to work around the clock, a confrontation becomes inevitable. Shot clandestinely in China, under difficult conditions, this is a deep-access account of what both China and the international retail companies don't want us to see - how the clothes we buy are actually made.Written by
Teddy Bear Films
"China Blue" is an engrossing documentary that tells the story of 3 teenage girls who leave their rural homes in China to come work for a factory that makes blue jeans.
The movie also presents at some length a portrait of the factory owner, and draws him as a sympathetic character (though not entirely). The factory owner believed that he ran an excellent factory and had nothing to hide--he gave the documentary makers extensive access to the factory and to the workers. In fact it was only the Chinese government that hassled Peled--their rule is that all foreign journalists must have a government minder, and any filming without government approval is illegal. Big chunks of the film were lost as a result.
Peled said in discussion afterward that the moral of the film is not "don't buy Chinese jeans". He said that conditions would be similar in any factory in Sri Lanka, El Salvador, or the Mariana Islands. In fact, conditions in the factory of the film are said to be relatively good. Nonetheless, the workers (mostly teenage girls) work 7 days a week, often getting only 2 or 4 hours sleep. They are paid irregularly, when it suits the owner, and the costs of the dormitory and kitchen (and "fines") are deducted from their pay.
Their wages average 6 cents an hour. The factory owner sells the jeans for $4.20 (or $4.10) each. Of that, $1 is labor cost, the cost of about 25 peoples' labor for one hour. The owner claims to make only 20 cents profit on a pair of jeans. The documentary asserts that the big name brands push costs to be so low that they know that the factories cannot be paying minimum wage, but they look the other way regarding proof of factory conditions. Walmart, for example, allows factories 3 reports of non-compliance with basic humanitarian rules before it will consider going elsewhere. And there are consultants who specialize in teaching factories how to fake their inspections. It's cheaper than paying decent wages.
The documentary is not a crude polemic. It lets the girls speak in their own voices, relying on a charmingly written diary by the main character, Jasmine, which is read in a voice-over. The film shows the girls in their daily routine, 8 of them sharing a room and a toilet, brushing their teeth and getting ready for work at the same time. Although I've read much about globalization, this film brought home the reality of its results in the lives of the girl workers, who marvel at the huge girth of the jeans they are making and wonder what kind of people must be wearing them. The conditions are both shocking and matter-of-fact in the way everyone takes them for granted. I highly recommend this movie.
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