Synopsis by Mark Deming
One of the better known traditions of the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, LA is the beads -- most folks wear lots of cheap plastic beads while they wander the city's streets in search of fun, and men hoping that women will flash their breasts usually toss ladies their beads in what they hope will be considered a fair exchange. However, while in New Orleans, those beads symbolize a wild party and low-level exhibitionism, on the other side of the world they mean something else. In Fuzhou, China, a man named Roger Wong owns a factory that produces the majority of the beads tossed to strangers during Mardi Gras, and to his employees, the beads mean work days of 14 to 20 hours, for which they are paid less than ten cents an hour. Most of the workers in Wong's plant are young women, whom he says are less likely to cause trouble or make demands than their male equivalent. The workers live in a dormitory where they can be fined one month's wages if a member of the opposite sex is found in their room. And most are struggling to support themselves and their families on wages that are low even by the standards of a Chinese sweatshop. Mardi Gras: Made in China is a documentary which explores the dramatic contrast between the conditions under which Mardi Gras beads are made and what happens with them once they arrive in the United States; both American revelers and Chinese workers are given a perspective on how the other half lives, and what can be done to make their circumstances more equitable.
beadwork, China, factory, globalization, Mardi-Gras, misunderstanding, worker