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In November of 2017, the online resource announced its Word of the Year, one that has gained renewed relevance in the United States owing to recent political events. That word, “Complicit,” hints at the moral entanglements that result from partnering with others involved in wrongdoing. It is also the title of one of the most important documentaries to come out of China, the country where many of our smartphones are manufactured (and often at the cost of human lives). Co-directed by Heather White and Lynn Zhang, Complicit was filmed covertly over a grueling three year period in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, two so-called “electronics zones” where local and migrant workers are forced to contend with unsafe workplace conditions as well as hazardous chemicals. Prolonged exposure to toxic solvents and carcinogens, including Benzene and n-Hexane (which were banned in developed countries more than four decades ago), frequently leads to nerve damage, paralysis, and cancer. Incorporating footage sourced from undercover workers, and balancing the perspectives of victims with those of activist groups such as Labor Action China, this riveting film is a rude awakening to people who say they “can’t live” without their cellphones. It is also a reminder that there are winners and losers in the game of global capitalism, and that no one can claim innocence so long as we remain complicit in rewarding electronics manufacturers with our undying patronage.


Heather White
Lynn Zhang
90 minutes
China | USA


The Lyric
Friday April 13th, 2018
7:30 p.m. start time

In-Person Guests:
Heather White
Dr. Hye Seung Chung