AP

Julia Reichert, Oscar-winning documentarian, dies at 76

Dec 2, 2022, 9:43 AM | Updated: Dec 3, 2022, 4:29 pm

FILE - Julia Reichert, left, and Steven Bognar accept the award for best documentary feature for "A...

FILE - Julia Reichert, left, and Steven Bognar accept the award for best documentary feature for "American Factory" at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2020. Reichert, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker whose films explored themes of race, class and gender, often in the Midwest, died Thursday in Ohio from cancer, her family said Friday through a representative. She was 76. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Julia Reichert, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker behind “American Factory” whose films explored themes of race, class and gender, often in the Midwest, has died. She was 76.

She died Thursday night in Ohio from cancer, her family said Friday through a representative. She was diagnosed with stage four urothelial cancer in April 2018.

Often called the “godmother of American independent documentaries,” Reichart told the stories of ordinary Americans, from autoworkers dealing with both plant closures (2009’s “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”) and foreign investors (2019’s “American Factory”), to members of the American Communist Party (1983’s “Seeing Red”) to female labor activists in the 1930s (1976’s “Union Maids”).

In her 50 years of filmmaking, Reichert won two Primetime Emmy Awards and was nominated for four Oscars, winning one with her partner Steven Bognar for “American Factory” in 2020. She quoted “The Communist Manifesto” in her speech, saying “things will get better when workers of the world unite.”

She was also nominated for two Peabody Awards.

Veteran film producer Ira Deutchman wrote on Twitter that she was one of “the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”

“Her spirit was so indominable that somehow I thought she would eventually triumph over her illness,” he added. “I will miss her so much.”

“RBG” director Julie Cohen tweeted that she was “reflecting on the life of a woman who made an enormous contribution to the world of documentary. And the world generally.”

Born in 1946 in Princeton, New Jersey, and raised in Bordentown and Long Beach Island with her three brothers, Reichert started finding her voice as a filmmaker at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, beginning her long residency in the state.

Her first film, “Growing Up Female” was a 49-minute student film made for $2,000 with then-partner Jim Klein that looked at the lives of six women, ages 4 through 35, and their socialization.

When they couldn’t find distribution, they founded their own company, New Day Films, which is still active to this day. In 2011, “Growing Up Female” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry and is considered the first feature documentary of the modern women’s liberation movement.

“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,” Reichert told the radio station WYSO last year. “Not that we wanted to attack the White House but we really wanted to change society.”

She and Bognar worked for eight years to make the 225-minute-long, Primetime Emmy Award-winning “A Lion in the House,” which looked at five families dealing with childhood cancer in Ohio.

“American Factory” put Reichert and Bognar in a different kind of spotlight when Barack and Michelle Obama took interest in their film about an Ohio auto glass factory that had been purchased by a Chinese investor. It became the first project the Obamas backed with their production company Higher Ground.

“One of the many things I love about this film … is that you let people tell their own story,” the former first lady said in 2019. “‘American Factory’ doesn’t come in with a perspective. It’s not an editorial. I mean, you truly let people speak for themselves, and that is a powerful thing that you don’t always see happen.”

More recently Reichert and Bognar directed “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” about an organization that is trying to improve working conditions and maintain rights for women and families, and “Dave Chappelle: Live in Real Life,” following the comedian’s Yellow Springs shows in 2020 during the pandemic.

Throughout her career, Reichert made sure to pass on her wisdom to others, teaching film at Wright State University from 1985 through 2016 and writing a book about self-distribution called “Doing It Yourself.”

Reichert had been diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January 2006, while preparing to go to Sundance with “A Lion in the House,” but went into remission later that year.

The urothelial cancer, she knew, was incurable. In 2020, she told NPR’s Terry Gross that now that she was coming to the end of her life, she was focusing on things she hadn’t been able to do enough while making films, like spending time with her daughter and grandchildren.

Reichert is survived by Bognar, her daughter Lela Klein Holt and two grandchildren.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

2 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

2 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden gestures after speaking to graduating students at the Morehouse College commenc...

Associated Press

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Joe Biden on Sunday offered his most direct recognition of U.S. students' anguish over the Israel-Hamas war.

4 days ago

Rudy Giuliani...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani is the final defendant served indictment in Arizona fake elector case

Rudy Giuliani has been served an indictment in Arizona's fake elector case for his role in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

5 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort Masters

Here's how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Julia Reichert, Oscar-winning documentarian, dies at 76