Julia Reichert, the documentary filmmaker who won an Oscar in 2020 with husband and directing partner Steven Bognar for American Factory, died last night of bladder cancer. She was 75.

A longtime resident of Yellow Springs, Ohio, her death was announnced by the area’s public radio station WYSO, where Reichert had previously hosted a weekly show.

With a focus on class issues, gender inequality, race and and the global economy’s impact on middle-class – and often Midwestern – America, Reichert’s films included such Oscar nominees as Union Maids (1976) Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983, with Jim Klein) and The Last Truck: Closing of A GM Plant (2009, with Steven Bognar), the latter film documenting the closing of a GM plant in the Dayton suburb of Moraine.

The couple’s Oscar came with American Factory, an in-depth look at the economic, social ramifications and culture clashes when that abandoned GM plant of The Last Truck was reopened by an anti-union Chinese billionaire. The film won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.

In an interview with WYSO last year, Reichert said, “I grew up, I came of age in the ’60s. Millions of us saw racism, saw U.S. domination around the world. Imperialism. Saw huge inequalities class wise. We said the system’s not working and we became, in some broad sense, revolutionaries. Not that we wanted to attack the White House but we really wanted to change society.”

In addition to filmmaking, Reichert was a Professor of Motion Pictures at Wright State University outside Dayton.

She is survived by Bognar, daughter Lela Klein Holt, three brothers, two grandchildren and a nephew.


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