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. During this documentary both American revelers and Chinese workers are given a perspective on how the other half lives.
What is Mardi Gras? Is a large celebration that varies city to city with popular practices which include wearing masks, costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, excessive drinking, etc before Ash Wednesday.
One of the better known traditions of the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is the beads – while people wander the city’s streets looking for some fun, men hoping women will expose their breasts in exchange for some beads. What happens to the beads after the celebration? Most of them end up in the garbage. But what do these beads symbolize? For those in New Orleans, they symbolize a huge celebration, while on the other side of the world, in China they mean something totally different – income.
Over in China, a man named Roger owns a factory that produces a majority of the beads that are tossed to strangers during Mardi Gras. What do the beads mean to Roger? The beads are a source of income and allow him and his family to live high class lifestyle. This business brings in millions of dollars every year during this large celebration. While, the beads mean a lot more to the employees. These beads mean work days of fourteen to twenty hours, where they are paid ten cents an hour; earning an average of three dollars a day. Many of the workers are young women, who are high school drop outs. Roger said in the documentary that, “women are less likely to cause trouble or make demands than their male equivalent.” All of the workers live in a dormitory with ten workers in a room with only five beds. Roger makes sure his female workers are not in the men’s dormitory as well as making sure the men...