AMERICAN FACTORY Stream on Netflix. The first release from Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground Productions, looks at what happens when an automotive glass factory owned by a Chinese billionaire opens in what was once a General Motors plant near Dayton, Ohio. Directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, the documentary focuses on American and Chinese workers at the plant, laying out the challenges and frustrations they face as their initial optimism is challenged. “With detail and sweep, interviews and you-are-there visuals, the filmmakers quickly establish a clear, strong narrative line as the new enterprise — Fuyao Glass America — gets off the ground,” Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The New York Times. “The optimism of the workers is palpable; the access the filmmakers secured remarkable. Bognar and Reichert spent a number of years making ‘American Factory,’ a commitment that’s evident in its layered storytelling and the trust they earned.”
SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY Stream on Thirteen.org. High school hierarchy, a beauty pageant and Bobby Brown are all ingredients in this play, which was filmed in Manhattan last year during an MCC Theater production. It was recently broadcast on PBS as part of Theater Close Up and is now available to stream. The show depicts “Mean Girls”-esque backbiting at a Ghana boarding school, where the arrival of a new student, Ericka (Joanna A. Jones), upends the teenage social order. The quick, sharp and hilarious ensemble play off a script that evokes, in addition to “Mean Girls,” other movies like “Heathers,” “Jawbreaker” and “Legally Blonde” that use school cliques as a source of both laughs and love-to-hate outrage. “Something fascinating happens when the author, Jocelyn Bioh, a New York playwright and actor, applies those templates to the world of her parents, who emigrated from Ghana in 1968,” Jesse Green wrote in his review for The Times. “The nasty-teen comedy genre emerges wonderfully refreshed and even deepened by its immersion in a world it never considered.”
A SIMPLE FAVOR (2018) Stream on Amazon. The director Paul Feig might be most closely associated with the rebooted “Ghostbusters” and the dirty comedy of “Bridesmaids.” But he took a darker turn here, directing a mystery adapted from the novel by Darcey Bell. Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, a widow whose mild fixation with her new friend, Emily (Blake Lively), becomes not-so-mild when Emily goes missing. In her review for The Times, Manohla Dargis called the movie “a female-friendship comedy with neo-noir ambitions,” writing that, despite two well-synchronized stars, the movie “starts stalling out as the narrative feints and dodges increase.”
What’s on TV
HIGHER LEARNING (1995) 6 p.m. on BET. This third feature from the director John Singleton delves into race relations on a 1990s college campus, telling the story of three freshmen (played by Omar Epps, Michael Rapaport and Kristy Swanson) whose lives intermittently overlap as they move toward a haunting climax.