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Dayton-area filmmakers Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar win Oscar for ‘American Factory’

Published: Sunday, February 09, 2020 @ 9:10 PM

Yellow Springs filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert win a 2020 Academy Award for best documentary feature for "American Factory."

Hollywood’s most-prized golden man is coming home to the Dayton area with a local couple who live in a village named for its spring. 

Yellow Springs residents Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar — longtime pillars of Dayton’s art and film community — received the Oscar in the documentary feature category for their critically-acclaimed film “American Factory” at the Academy Award ceremony, Sunday, Feb. 9. They share the award with Jeff Reichert.

>> Locally made film ‘American Factory’ wins best documentary feature during Film Independent Spirit Awards 2020

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Julia Reichert accepts the Documentary - Feature - award for 'American Factory' onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The film edged out “The Cave,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “For Sama” and “Honeyland.”

Julia Reichert, a nationally acclaimed artist who has been called the godmother of the American independent film movement, is battling a rare and deadly cancer. 

She and Bognar were exuberant during their acceptance speeches. 

>> OSCAR GOLD! Excerpts from Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s acceptance speech

“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. Our film is from Ohio and China. 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,” Reichert said.

Bognar said, Thank you, Academy! Thank you to everyone who trusted us to tell your story. Junming Wang, thank you to our unstoppable crew, our beloved friends and family, Jeff Liu, our unstoppable editor Lindsay Utz, and to those big-hearted people at Netflix, Participant Media, Higher Ground Productions, and the tough, inventive, great people of Dayton, Ohio.”

>> Filmmakers applaud Ohio movie tax credits, while critics pan them

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: (L-R) Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar, Lindsay Utz, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello accept the Documentary - Feature - award for 'American Factory' onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“American Factory” follows the creation of the Chinese-owned automotive glass-factory Fuyao Glass America in the same building that had once housed a General Motors assembly operation in Moraine.

>> The story behind ‘American Factory’ with Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar

Bognar and Reichert, a couple together for more than 30 years, received an Academy Award nomination in the “Best Documentary (short subject)” category for their 2009 HBO film “The Last Truck” about the closing of that very same GM plant in Moraine.


Some of the stars of “American Factory” —  Dayton-area residents and former and past Fuyao Glass workers Jill Lamantia, Shawnea Rosser-Carter, Robert “Bobby” Allen, Wong He and Rob Haerr — and their guests attended the ceremony. 

>> Daytonians headed to the Oscars

Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, in partnership with Netflix, acquired “American Factory” in April 2019.

> RELATED: Obama salutes Dayton filmmakers for Oscar-nominated movie about local factory workers

“American Factory” directors Julia Reichert (left) and Steven Bognar filming scenes at Fuyao. DAVID HOLM/NETFLIX(Columbus Bureau)

Reichert and Bognar were considered front- runners for the prizes having won the Directors Guild of America Award, the Film Independent Spirit Award and the Gotham Award Independent Film Award in the documentary categories.

The Oscar nomination is the fourth for Reichert and the second for Bognar.

Aside from “Last Truck” and “American Factory” with Bognar, Reichert was nominated for the first time in 1978 with James Klein and Miles Mogulescu for “Union Maids,” and again with Klein in 1984 for “Seeing Red.”

>> RELATED: What happened at the Dayton premiere of American Factory? 

This is the third year in a row the Miami Valley will have a direct connection to the awards. 

Centerville High School and Wright State University graduate Hannah Beachler won the Oscar for Production Design last year for her work on Marvel’s “Black Panther” during the 91st Annual Academy Awards. 

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Dayton celebrates Hannah Beachler’s historic Oscar win for Black Panther

Two years ago, Oakwood-raised actress Allison Janney earned the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role last year at the 90th annual Academy Awards for “I, Tonya.”

Springfield native John Legend won the 2015 Oscar for Best Original Song for “Glory.”

>> John Legend coming home for local concert

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar accept Documentary for 'American Factory' during the 72nd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at The Ritz Carlton on January 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)