On September 28, 2023, “The Flagmakers” won the Emmy for outstanding short documentary at the 44th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. After the Emmy win, our entire team sat down to watched the documentary again. In a way, this feels like our story, too. As an Eder Flag supplier with a similarly diverse team of people from many backgrounds and life experiences, we feel tremendously proud to see the story of our flags told in this way.
“The Flagmakers” is a beautiful and nuanced depiction of the many stories that make up the fabric of our country and its flag. The short film, produced by National Geographic, takes us behind the scenes of how Eder Flag, an employee-owned flag manufacturer in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, operates — and, perhaps more significantly, how its employees feel about and relate to the American flags they make day after day.
In the opening minutes of the film, we hear sewing manager Radica — an immigrant from Serbia — say, "That flag has a story to tell" over images of flagmakers laying out stars to be sewn on a vivid blue canvas. This melting pot of stories from Radica and her co-workers, many of whom are also immigrants with complex, emotional relationships to the flag and its meaning, is what makes the film so moving.
“One flag is not made by one person. It’s the dream, the work of many people,” a sewer says in Spanish, as she describes how a flag is born.
One flag sewer, Ali, describes migrating from a neighborhood in Baghdad he calls "The Death Road" — after 12 years of waiting — hoping the USA would provide a safer life for his wife and children. We watch as, between scenes of him sewing stars and stripes, he eats breakfast with his family, grills for a Fourth of July barbecue, welcomes a new kitten. At one point, he says exuberantly, "Here in America, life is beautiful." Months later, while sitting in front of his sewing machine, he phones his mother in Iraq to tell her of being beaten in a violent act of racism at a Wal-Mart. The film reveals in these stark contrasts, how the "American dream" many envision when looking at the flag, is still a work in progress— and for some, still feels just beyond reach, even after moving here from across the world.
SugarRay, a production supervisor from Milwaukee, says Eder is the most diverse workplace he's ever been a part of. Yet, he describes his love for America with painful ambivalence as he reflects on the deaths of George Floyd and Jacob Blake: “It don't always love you back.” Still, he clings fiercely to his patriotism and watches with sadness and horror, as news reports on the January 6 insurrection show one of the flagpoles he likely helped to produce used to repeatedly beat a police officer at the Capitol.
“I love America. I know it’s not perfect. But that is beauty," Radica says as she looks up proudly at one of the flags she helped produce, preparing to return to her home country of Serbia. “You don’t love something because it's perfect. You love something because it’s yours.” And I think this line summarizes the spirit of this film and the spirit of the American flag and its people.
Many of the workers who immigrated to the United States, eventually finding their way to Eder Flag, came for a better life and choose daily to put their heart and soul into every piece of our American flag that they make. Others, born and raised in the USA, work at Eder to provide for their families and work towards that dream of doing better together. I was struck by how each employee at Eder Flag takes such immense pride in producing flags of the highest quality. Their common thread is a shared desire to do good work and live good lives. Ultimately, this is not just an American story; it's a human one. And, at Flags USA, it's our story, too.
This documentary was so moving for our team because it reminded us of our "why." At Flags USA, a vital part of our mission is only selling flags 100% made and manufactured in the USA. I recently had the privilege of going to one of the factories that makes the materials used in our American flags.
The fibers that make up the red, white, and blue fabric come from the United States and are woven together in the United States to make the fabric.
The fabric is dyed red, white, and blue in the United States.
Thread used to embroider the stars and sew the fabric together is made in the United States.
The factories and warehouses that finalize and hold American flags are right here in the United States.
As one Eder Flag employee describes in the film, it is a beautiful thing to walk into a flag factory and see the diversity that this country was built on.
As I toured the fabric-dying factory, I saw men and women from all backgrounds working to ensure that every part of the fabric was properly washed, dyed, and rewashed correctly. I watched as one man went through every roll of fabric removing imperfections and re-rolling the perfectly dyed fabric.
Like the employees of Eder Flag, we, here at Flags USA, are proud to distribute American flags made with pride and love for the United States, and we hope you fly your American flag with the same pride and love.
“The Flagmakers” documentary is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.