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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » American Jobs
American Jobs
Other // Unrated // December 28, 2004
List Price: $11.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted December 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Lou Dobbs, on his CNN show Moneyline called Greg Spotts' film American Jobs "critically Important" and while I'm hardly a staunch fan of Mr. Dobbs, I would tend to agree with him on this on. The American economy is in trouble. The backbone of industrialized America has, for a long time, been the manufacturing segment. With the outsourcing of many, many manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was pushed through Congress, that segment has very quickly eroded and many of those jobs have gone to Mexico or to Asia. The work can be done cheaper there, in that the minimum wage (and subsequently the standard of living) is a whole lot lower over there and as one woman who is interviewed in this film puts it, 'they could hire sixteen workers over there for the wage they were paying me here.'

While many people believe that the focus of the economy has safely shifted to the information technology sector, that area too has recently been feeling the pains of outsourcing. More and more jobs are being offshored to India where, much like in the manufacturing segment, these jobs in phone support and programming and research and development can be done for literally pennies on the dollar. Through loopholes in work visa applications corporations have been able to bring immigrant workers into the American work place, train them, pay them less than comparable wages to their American counterparts, and then ship them back to India to set up shop there for a lot less money.

What this results in is a lot of unemployed Americans. There's a domino effect to this in that the middle class is being partially eroded. In turn, if this keeps up, the tax base will disappear and then the social services we all take for granted in this country will also being to erode.

That's the basic theory behind American Jobs and it is one that has been a topic of much debate recently, what with the election a few months back and the ups and downs of the economy over the last decade, specifically since 2001. To add insult to injury, there's a move known as CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Act) that is essentially the same deal as NAFTA just for a different part of the world, that could mean a loss of even more jobs locally.

First time writer/director/producer Greg Spotts makes his points by being subtle and without getting into the ugliness of partisan politics. He backs up his theories by interviewing people who've been laid off and personally felt the loss of manufacturing jobs, as well as with footage of various senators from both sides of the political spectrum arguing for and against NAFTA. There's also interview footage with the head honcho of Apex Digital (how many of us, myself included, own an Apex DVD player?), a huge corporation that buys cheaply made DVD players and electronics made in Asia and sells them cheaper than anyone else in major retail chains like Walmart. Spotts talks to people who've been laid off from a textile mill in North Carolina as well as white collar jobless like laid off programmers and web developers who have also felt the sting of their jobs being shipped off to India.

The result of Spotts' work is a very interesting and, to be honest, slightly frightening film that shows just how strong corporate control has become in this country these days. While there are pockets of hope in the form of legislation that may or may not be able to counteract some of the loopholes companies are using to get away with this, the long term implications are already starting to take hold.

The DVD

Video:

The 1.33.1 fullframe image looks surprisingly good for a low budget independently produced documentary. Colors are lifelike and natural, there are no problems with mpeg compression whatsoever, and edge enhancement is never a serious problem. The black levels remain stable and even the archival footage used in a few of the scenes looks pretty clean. Spotts took the time to light his shots properly and frame the image with enough care that his film ends up looking considerably better than most of the other recent political documentaries I've had the chance to view lately. This image looks very good.

Sound:

The English Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is fine. The film is almost entirely dialogue based with a song rising up in the background every once in a while. With this in mind, it would have been unnecessary to give this film a surround sound mix as it wouldn't have added anything to it. Although there are no subtitles or closed captioning options available the dialogue is always clean, coherent, and easy to understand and the levels are balanced nicely in that the music never overshadows what is being said on camera.

Extras:

The only option off of the main menu aside from 'play' is chapter selection. That's it, there ain't no more.

Final Thoughts:

American Jobs is a pretty though provoking little documentary that avoids the ugliness of partisan politics. It's informative, interesting, and worth your time to check out – however, the replay value is minimal and there are no supplements at all. While the film is well worth seeing, I'd say rent it if you can. If you don't have that option, the disc has a low MSRP of $11.95 and anyone interested in learning more about outsourcing could certainly do a lot worse than spend their money on this DVD and it comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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