Ex-GM Workers Hope Documentary Will Reveal Hardship
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Four displaced autoworkers invited to the Academy Awards hope a documentary that chronicled the closing of their General Motors factory will draw attention to the plight of the jobless.
The HBO film "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant" was nominated for best documentary short. About 1,100 workers lost their jobs when GM closed the sport utility vehicle plant in Moraine, south of Dayton, in December 2008. It lost to "The Cove," an investigation into grisly dolphin-fishing operations in Japan.
Kim Clay, one of the former autoworkers, said the tough economy has left him with no prospects in sight. He's on food stamps, and he's struggling to pay rent and his water bill.
HBO paid for Clay and the other former workers to travel to Los Angeles.
"Last Truck" is a 40-minute film produced by Yellow Springs, Ohio, filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reicherts. Bognar won't disclose the anonymous person who snagged tickets for Sunday's Oscar ceremonies, which come by invitation only.
Bognar said he'd gladly trade the honor of an Oscar nomination to get the GM workers their jobs back.
The film's emotional centerpiece is the final day of production when the last truck rolls down the assembly line.
"I followed it all the way down the line," said Kate Geiger, one of several GM employees who used small, cellphone-sized digital cameras to capture footage used in the film. "All day people were chanting, 'It's coming; it's coming. It was like being in a maternity ward waiting for a baby to be born, but really it was like being at Hospice waiting for someone to die."
GM said it closed the plant because high gasoline prices reduced demand for the vehicles built there.
Former autoworker Kate Geiger of Centerville said the film's popularity has been therapeutic.
"In the past we have been treated like spoiled overpaid union workers; we're used to being told to quit whining," said Geiger, who is attending a community college to study graphic design. "But that's not the reception to this movie at all. You turn on the lights and there are people wiping their eyes. That has helped us to heal."