MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 74 minutes
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Are you ready for some GUILT? Well, I hope so, especially if you’ve ever gone wild for some beads at Mardi Gras. This tale of globalization is here to rub your face in the mess you’ve helped create, you…you…consumer. And while the purpose of this film isn’t directly aimed at getting people to stop their excessive consuming ways, it is meant to make them, well, think a little bit at least.

Mardi Gras, a major breeding ground for excess and waste. During this time of year, partiers crowd the streets, buying beads for the sole purpose of throwing them around for the sake of naked flesh. But where do those beads come from? This is the question that filmmaker David Redmon poses to a few of the partiers and it stops them in their tracks. Either they don’t know, don’t care, or have a good idea, but refuse to think about it too long as it would create a serious buzzkill. Besides, finals are coming up and what can be worse than that?

David then takes us on an intimate tour of a bead factory in China, the largest manufacturer of Mardi Gras beads in the world, and we get to take a look at the other side of the booze and pill fueled good times…and yes, it sucks. This film will also make you realize that maybe your life really isn’t all that bad because you had to do an hour of overtime last week. The people, mostly women, working in this factory string beads and paint ornaments for 12 to 20 hours a day, six or seven days a week for ten cents an hour. David interviews several of the factory’s workers and we hear the tales of oppressive working and living conditions as they struggle to support themselves and their families, all the while dreaming of a better life that they’ll more than likely never seize as they have their noses to the grindstone most of their waking hours. We also hear from the factory owner in a series of brutal interviews where he isn’t shy one bit about detailing the difficult working conditions and expectations he imposes on his “workers.” In fact, he seems proud that he’s such a sonofabitch as he shows us his ridiculous quota charts that each worker needs to meet every day if they don’t want to be docked pay. This guy’s so over the top that he’s actually funny sometimes. It sucks to say it, but it’s true.

So then it’s back and forth from China to Bourbon Street as David Redmon attempts to engage in a “cultural exchange”. Neither side knows the other exists – the partiers don’t know about the oppressed workers cranking out their beads they can’t wait to throw away and the workers in China hadn’t a clue that crazy Americans take off their clothes for these ugly things they work with day in and day out. The workers giggle in disbelief as they pass pictures of the half naked partiers around and the partiers, they give it all a moment’s thought before going off to join the chaos once again.

Well, at least they give it a moment, that’s a lot for a bunch of horny drunks. To expect them all to drop their beads and just head home would be ridiculous. What’s good is that David Redmon appears to realize that, too. This film isn’t some blind, naïve crusade. David just wants to introduce the two sides to one another in the hopes that thought will eventually lead to action, so that maybe one day life can be better for those who toil endlessly for a measly buck and he does so with a little humor and without that preachy tone many other filmmakers would take. So, it’s educational and entertaining guilt we have here and it’s recommended viewing.



Posted on January 20, 2005 in Reviews by
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