David Redmon’s documentary, MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA,
answers a seemingly trivial question: from where do those ubiquitous
beads people throw from floats and exchange for glimpses of flesh
during the bacchanalian celebrations come? The short answer is
provided by the tag attached to the beads: "made in China." The
more detailed response is the heart of Redmon's fascinating
debut.

 After reading an article about China's entry into a free market
economy, Redmon decided to investigate the issue further by
following one item from its creation in China through to its
distribution in the United States. He eventually zeroed in on those
cheap trinkets made famous in New Orleans. Redmon's curiosity took
him to the Fuzhou region of China where he located a factory
that produces the beads. Over the course of two months, he
interviewed workers at the compound where they toil and live.
Among the many interesting things he discovered is that the majority
of the employees are young and female who are routinely exploited.
The set quotas are near impossible to meet, so the girls often have
their already tiny salaries cut. Many of these young women are
working to send money back to their families, and Redmon gets
some rare footage following one employee as she returns home.

 Rather than interject himself into the film in the manner of a
Michael Moore, Redmon remains relatively in the background, allowing
the interviews and the images to speak volumes. The audience
hears the factory owner expound on how his workers are happy and
fulfilled, and then we are shown footage of the employees in the
lousy working conditions in his factory and the terrible living quarters
in which they are forced to exist.

 One of the most interesting moments in the documentary
occurs when the filmmaker shows footage of Mardi Gras celebrations
to the workers who cannot seem to comprehend that anyone would
want to buy the trinkets they make. Similarly, when Redmon shows
footage of the deplorable working conditions to revellers in the
Big Easy, the boisterous celebrators suddenly turn sober, even  
incredulous. Obviously, they never took a moment to consider the
origins of the beads they toss around and eventually discard.

 We are definitely living in a global economy and workers
continue to be exploited. It's up to intrepid movie makers like David
Redmon and others to shine a light on the injustices. That he has
done so -- and done so in such a strong and powerful manner -- with
MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA is noteworthy. The film hopefully
will stir debate over the methods that large corporations use
to exploit subcontractors for fiscal gain



                    Rating:                   B+
                    MPAA Rating:          NONE
                    Running time:         72 min.
Mardi Gras: Made in China
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.