During the Q&A for the film, filmmaker David Redmon explained that the initial concept for Mardi Gras: Made in China revolved around the idea of exploring the interconnection between pop culture, ritual, and globalization. To this end, the idea of tracing the origin of a disposable commodity – Mardi Gras beads – seemed ideally suited in linking the economies and social cultures of the U.S. and China. Contrasting the inebriated chaos of revelers at the Mardi Gras parade in the French Quarters of New Orleans for which the beads represent a figurative (if transitory) capital – and therefore, power – that can be traded for pleasure (women exposing themselves in exchange for the trinkets) with an insightful profile of the child workers earning the equivalent of ten cents an hour (mostly adolescent girls who, as the owner explains, are more obedient and manageable) at China’s largest bead manufacturing factory, the film presents a sobering portrait of crass consumerism (as appropiately articulated by a truck driver on holiday who dismisses the plight of the Chinese workers by shouting the idiotic mantra “Don’t know and don’t care. Beads for boobs!”). Conducting a series of interviews with a group of girls living in the communal dormitories on factory grounds, what emerges is a familiar pattern of rural poverty, undereducation, and familial obligation to provide financial support. In the end, what is revealed between the two seemingly disparate cultures is the commonality of human commodification and exploitation, and the delusive ephemerality of material happiness.
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