Ohio Directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert Score an Oscar for Regionally Filmed 'American Factory'

Yellow Springs, Ohio-based filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar won big at Sunday night's Academy Awards

Feb 10, 2020 at 11:41 am
click to enlarge Julia Reichert (left) and Steven Bognar on the set of "American Factory" - Photo: David Holm/Netflix
Photo: David Holm/Netflix
Julia Reichert (left) and Steven Bognar on the set of "American Factory"

On Sunday, the Buckeye State received a shout-out at the 92nd Academy Awards via Yellow Springs, Ohio-based filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. 

The duo took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for American Factory, the first release under Barack and Michelle Obama's film company Higher Ground Productions. The film, currently streaming on Netflix, follows the story of Moraine, Ohio's Fuyao Glass America factory, which was opened by Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang inside what was once a General Motors plant. The GM plant's closure was the focus of Bognar and Reichert’s 2009 Oscar-nominated short, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.

When the GM plant shuttered in 2008, nearly 3,000 were left jobless. Fuyao came with a promise of new jobs — over 1,500 of them, according to The New York Times. But, as the doc's logline reads, "Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America."

“Working people have it harder and harder these days — and we believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite,” Reichert said in her acceptance speech.

Also backed by Participant Media, the film was one of Netflix's only wins of the night. Despite the streaming giant's films being nominated in a whopping 24 categories — more than any other studio — Netflix only nabbed two wins: American Factory for Best Documentary and for Laura Dern as Best Supporting Actress in Noah Baumbach's divorce drama Marriage Story. 

In response to the win, former President Obama tweeted: “Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release.”

Michelle also sent her praise, tweeting that she was "so glad to see their heart and honesty recognized — because the best stories are rarely tidy or perfect. But that’s where the truth so often lies.”

American Factory has also previously won the Directors Guild of America's Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Documentary and the directing award for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered.