A documentary that stirs the conscience, Mardi Gras: Made in China opens with a disclaimer: “All of the material in this film was shot before Hurricane Katrina.” But New Orleans is really incidental to the movie’s ultimate message—namely, to think long and hard about who’s making the knickknacks in your home. Examining the life cycle of the bead necklaces used at Mardi Gras, David Redmon contrasts the drunken partiers with employees of the Tai Kuen bead factory in China, who ordinarily work 14-hour days, six days a week, coping with toxic chemicals and medieval codes of conduct. The owners make millions, the buyers pay peanuts and the workers get 10 cents an hour—minus pay docked when they talk.
Redmon gets damning sound bites on both sides of the spectrum, from the clueless management (“We don’t want to break the law,” says factory owner Roger Wong, explaining the necessity of adding a “made in China” label to the merchandise) to the people of New Orleans, who can’t be bothered to hear about how their trinkets are made. Diagnosing a case of mutual ignorance, Redmon shows footage of the factory to the shamed revelers, then brings photos of Mardi Gras to the workers, who are baffled by what’s actually done with their beads. Meanwhile, on opposite ends of the globe, moneymakers cop to the same disturbing truth: If they didn’t profit from it, someone else would. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village