Mardi Gras = Fat Tuesday = the day people go to New Orleans and drink even more than they would usually drink when they go to New Orleans. This year, the big day is 20 February 2007.
Pre-Katrina: I’ll never forget my first stroll down Bourbon Street. The smell of vomit was unmistakable. But New Orleans is like no other American city–music, food, architecture, history–there’s no place like it. Will the city recover from Katrina? Not quickly, and never completely. (And if we can’t reconstruct New Orleans, what hope is there for Iraq? But I digress.)
The US has a huge trade deficit with China. The Bush administration continues to midwife the evisceration of American manufacturing, and unions along with it. Meanwhile, workers in China labor under horrific conditions.
Mardi Gras: Made in China follows the “bead trail” from the factory in China to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, poignantly exposing the inequities of globalization. First-time director David Redmon cleverly illuminates the clash of cultures by juxtaposing American excess and consumer ignorance against the harsh life of the Chinese factory worker.
The film confronts both cultural and economic globalism by humanizing the commodity chain from China to the United States. Redmon follows the stories of four teenage women workers in the largest Mardi Gras bead factory in the world, providing insights into their economic realities, self-sacrifice, and dreams of a better life, and the severe discipline imposed by living and working in a factory compound.
Interweaving factory life with Mardi Gras festivities, the film opens the blind eye of consumerism by visually introducing workers and festival-goers to each other. A dialogue results when bead-wearing partiers are shown images of the teenage Chinese workers and asked if they know the origin of their beads, while the factory girls view pictures of Americans exchanging beads, soliciting more beads, and decadently celebrating. The conversation reveals the glaring truth about the real benefactors of the Chinese workers’ hard labor and exposes the extreme contrast between women’s lives and liberty in both cultures.