Local filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, residents of Yellow Springs, Ohio, won the top prize for feature-length documentary at the Academy Awards Feb. 9. Their film, “American Factory,” is a documentary exploring the acquisition of the former General Motors plant, now Fuyao automotive glass-factory in Moraine, Ohio.
“Even before that envelope got opened, just being in the presence, in the company of our sister and brother documentarians who risked their lives making stories, bringing stories to us about hospitals being bombed in Syria, about Brazil, about Macedonia, we were so proud. We are inspired by you guys,” said Reichert in her acceptance speech.
“Our film is from Ohio and China,” said Reichert. “Go Buckeyes! Sorry. But it really could be from anywhere that people put on a uniform and punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life. Working people have it harder and harder these days. We believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”
Bognar, who stepped up to the podium afterward thanked the “tough, inventive, great people of Dayton, Ohio.”
“American Factory” edged out the films “Honeyland,” “For Sama,” “The Cave” and “The Edge of Democracy” for this year’s top prize at The Oscars.
Though, the film had already won a handful of other prizes, having won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary, the Best Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Documentary Film and having been nominated for a handful more, winning an Oscar became the punctuation mark for the film.
Premiering back in August, the film quickly joined in on the Netflix award nominations boom that saw other films like “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” top pre-award season buzz as likely favorites. All told, Netflix’s film studio secured 24 nominations, more than any other studio, ultimately winning two.
Netflix’s other win this year went to Laura Dern for Supporting Actress for “Marriage Story.”
“American Factory” got its start as a short film, “The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant” which covered the Moraine factory’s initial closing back in 2008. The short would later go on to win an Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 2009 Academy Awards.
The feature-length documentary, which played in Dayton a few months back made its return this past weekend both at The Neon downtown and at The Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs.
“This is our third engagement of the film, and we’re delighted to give Daytonians another chance to see it on the big screen!” wrote The Neon on their website.
Reichert, a longtime resident of Dayton, Ohio is a graduate of Antioch University and was a professor for 28 years at Wright State. She has been making documentary films since the early seventies.
Her first film, “Growing Up Female” which was released in 1971 is considered the first feature documentary of the modern women’s movement and became a recent addition to the National Film Registry back in 2019.