Julia Reichert, Oscar-winning godmother of documentaries, dies

Reichert, whose first film came out 50 years ago, brought progressive politics and working-class issues to the forefront of non-fiction cinema.

Julia Reichert

Julia Reichert

AFI

Julia Reichert, the Oscar-winning co-director of “American Factory” and a longtime fixture of American documentary since the 1970s, has died at 76 after a 15-year battle with bladder cancer.

A champion of women’s rights and the working class whose films were ahead of their time in their intersectional exploration of class, gender, and race in America, Reichert was also a trailblazing leader and passionate advocate for the documentary community.

Born in New Jersey to a working-class family, Reichert started as a social activist and never intended to be a documentary filmmaker. “That was a job overwhelmingly for the wealthy,” said Jim Klein, Reichert’s partner from the 1960s to the 1980s and co-director of her early films. “We were social activists rather than filmmakers, doing it by the seat of our pants.”

Their first film, “Growing Up Female,” was completed 50 years ago with a budget of $2,000. It was one of the first documentaries chronicling the modern women’s movement. In 1971, Reichert used the film as an organizing tool, traveling around the country and screening it for small groups one city at a time. Frustrated with the lack of distribution options for films by and about women, Reichert and Klein co-founded New Day Films, a documentary film distribution cooperative.

“Julia was at heart an organizer,” said Gordon Quinn, founder and artistic director of Kartemquin Films and an occasional Reichert collaborator. “She was tremendously important in that role, fighting numerous battles with the gatekeepers.” Along with Quinn and others, Reichert was one of the founding members of the Indie Caucus, an action group that worked to keep independent documentaries on PBS. “She had a real commitment to the democratic process,” said Quinn. “I would say, ‘We should do it,’ and she would say, ‘We have to convene the committee and vote on this.’”

Reichert extended her faith in progressive political ideals to her films. The subjects of her work ranged from activist women, seen in the 1976 Oscar-nominated “Union Maids” co-directed with Klein and last year’s “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” co-directed with Steve Bognar, to members of the American Community party (the Oscar-nominated “Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists,” also with Klein) and the autoworkers of the Oscar-nominated films “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” and “American Factory,” both co-directed with Steve Bognar. Reichert, after all, ended her Oscar acceptance speech for “American Factory” by declaring: “Things will get better when workers of the world unite.”

“American Factory

In a local Dayton newspaper, Steve Bognar recently described all of Reichert’s films as having the same “through-line,” which he said “asks the question of ‘What makes a fair and just world?’ Especially for people who don’t have power, but who want to want a fair shake and want to have a decent life.”

Reichert maintained the same democratic approach to her process as a director. “We don’t just interview people once,” Reichert told The American Prospect last year. “We developed the relationships with people from ‘American Factory’ and ‘Last Truck’ over months. We would stop in at people’s houses… We would bring people a cup of coffee in the morning and sit down and talk. Time, time, time, investment in time, and people realize you actually care about them … not just the story.”

In the program notes to the Wexner Center for the Arts’s Reichert retrospective in 2019, director of Film/Video and curator Dave Filipi recalled an emblematic anecdote: After a Wexner screening of “The Last Truck,” Reichert and Bognar invited several autoworkers featured in the film who lost their jobs out to dinner, and, as Filipi wrote, “I began to fully appreciate the relationships and friendships that Julia and Steve had formed with these people. The mutual respect, understanding, and compassion between filmmakers and subjects was palpable, and one could only feel honored to be a part of the occasion.”

Melissa Godoy, who worked as a line producer on “A Lion in the House,” “The Last Truck,” “American Factory,” and “9to5,” said Julia and Steve respected their collaborators and crew in the same way. “They value our lives, time and families, give credit, include us — even the little guys — in everything, and offer opportunities to grow as artists,” she said. “So for a woman who makes films about labor and women, Julia walk[ed] the walk.”

AMERICAN FACTORY

“American Factory” executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama with directors Julia Reichardt and Steve Bognar

Chuck Kennedy/Netflix

For 28 years, Reichert was also a professor of film production at Dayton, Ohio’s Wright State University, where she mentored dozens of emerging filmmakers from around the country. “She inspired me in so many ways,” said Northwestern journalism professor Brent Huffman, director of “Saving Mes Aynak” and producer of “Finding Yingying.” “Julia used to have doc movie nights at her house and cooked us dinner. It wasn’t really a class; it was so much more. She taught me to be brave and never take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Based in the rural Ohio town of Yellow Springs, an oasis of leftist ideals and home to Antioch College, where Reichert and Klein first met as students, Reichert worked on many of her projects nearby. “They taught us that some of the best stories you can find in your own backyard,” said Godoy. “The Last Truck” and “American Factory” chronicled events taking place around Dayton, Ohio, while “A Lion in the House,” their Emmy-winning four-hour verité epic, followed five Cincinnati, Ohio-area families and their caregivers grappling with childhood cancer.

“A Lion in the House” hit especially close to home, as Reichert’s own daughter, with Klein, had just completed treatment for Hodgkin’s disease at 18 when they started the project. It took eight years to complete the film, and just as it was about to premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Reichert herself learned after landing in Park City that she was diagnosed with a late-stage lymphoma. After successful rounds of chemotherapy, Reichert was eventually cancer free. But in 2018, she was diagnosed with urothelial cancer and had been in and out of treatments since then—including the run-up to the 2020 Academy Awards—where she took a brief break to win the Oscar.

Reichert will be fondly remembered as an intrepid and courageous fighter for her colleagues and liberal causes — from women’s and worker’s rights to, more recently, Black Lives Matter, as shown in her yet-to-be-released final film with Bognar, the Untitled Dave Chappelle Documentary — as well as a tenacious filmmaker adept at capturing moments of extraordinary intimacy in concert with complex social-political issues.

But over the last year, in interviews, Reichert spoke with a sense of joy and hopefulness in being able to take a break from filmmaking. “Now that I’m coming toward the end of my life, it makes me want to focus on the things I didn’t get to do,” she told NPR’s Terry Gross in early 2020, such as cooking with her daughter or taking walks with her grandchildren. “Because all the films over 50 years, they exist.”

Dayton’s football history being preserved on film

If this were the summer of 1920, Lou Partlow – known as “The Battering Ram of West Carrollton” – would be spending some of his training sessions running full tilt through the wooded areas along the Great Miami River just outside of his town.

He would juke and spin and dodge, turning the rooted maples, oaks and elms into flat-footed defenders.

But then, on occasion, he’d lower a shoulder and slam into a sturdy trunk to prepare himself for the jolts he’d feel from the tacklers he would not elude in the NFL’s first-ever game between his Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles played at Triangle Park on October 3, 1920.

As it turned out, Partlow’s primitive preparations were perfect.

In the third quarter of a scoreless game, he broke a 40-yard run to the Panhandles’ 10-yard line. After a teammate’s carry then moved the ball three yards ahead, Partlow took a handoff and bolted seven yards for what is considered the NFL’s first touchdown.

With nearly 5,000 people crowded around the field that historic day, Dayton would go on to win, 14-0.

There have been times this summer when local filmmaker Allen Farst has felt a little like Partlow on those unforgiving training runs as he’s worked on the documentary he’s making – “Triangle Park” – about that first NFL game, the players on the Triangles team and the city of Dayton back then.

– excerpt from Tom Archdeacon’s story in the Dayton Daily News.  Full story here.

Local Producer Talks About “Redlining: Mapping in Inequality in Dayton and Springfield”

Filmmaker Selena Burks-Rentschler is an Ohio filmmaker, writer and director and last semester taught in the motion pictures program at Wright State University. She’s just wrapped a project where she served as the Associate Producer of Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton and Springfield a documentary that debuts this month on Think TV.  This one-hour documentary tells the story of local families who were impacted by redlining, and the lasting effects of this federal policy on our region. It also makes some surprising discoveries about the roots of redlining that trace back to our region, and some larger-than-life personalities who have been all but forgotten.  recently took time to answer some questions about her involvement with this project.

 

D937: How did you become involved in this project?
SBR: Gloria Skurski, the Chief Education Officer over at ThinkTV, invited me to apply for an associate producer position on a documentary about redlining in Dayton and Springfield. She read Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, and was inspired to make a documentary about the long term ramifications the federal policy of redlining had on the region. I later met with the film’s producer, Richard Wonderling and the three of us had a conversation on the importance to tell a local story, to not only discuss the challenges, but to also show the resiliancy of the communities who’ve been adversely impacted by redlining and other forms of housing discrimination.
We were all on the same page and that was incredibly valuable.  I lived in redline communities as a child.  And I remember not being able to wrap my mind around the reasons why my neighborhood didn’t have access to certain amenities such as grocery stores, doctors offices or banks. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to describe what it was until I became apart of the production team.

 

 

D937: What do you learn from working on it?

Mrs. Lelia Francis

SBR: One of the first things I did was read Rothstein’s The Color of Law, it was required reading and rightly so. There was a distinction made between De Facto segregation and De Jure segregation. And redlining was government sponsored segregation.

When I studied the maps from University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality website, and read detailed descriptions I was floored by the verbiage used to describe immigrants, people of color, and specifically African Americans. There’s so much I learned from working on this documentary, too much to say here. But I will say I learned about some of the local civil rights activists and heroes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Most notably, Mrs. Lelia Francis. She was the first Black woman real estate agent in the nation and the first Black real estate agent in the state of Ohio. Not only that, she owned a successful real estate business with her husband and was one of the founders of Dayton’s first Black owned and operated bank, Unity State Bank.

 

D937: Why should people watch this? 
SBR: Our goal with this documentary was to inform, educate and create a space for dialogue around the discussion of our country’s history. When one group suffers, we all pay the price. In order to address the issues of racial disparities in health, education, economics and housing, we must understand how we arrived here. And as I’ve said before, knowledge is power. It’s essential to unpack the legacy redlining has had on the Miami Valley region because what happened here has happened in every major city across America. This documentary lays bare the government’s role in mapping our segregated cities and suburbs, which left many Black Americans with little to no options on ways to access the American Dream.

 

Airdates for the documentary are:

Thursday February 24, at 9pm on ThinkTV16
Sunday, February 27, 1:00pm on ThinkTV16


World Class Production Studios Coming to Dayton!

1913 Studios announces the purchase of 721 Springfield Street in Dayton, Ohio. The 210,000 square foot building will house three large production spaces, more than 60 offices and pre/post production support spaces that will support the next generation of cutting edge filming and media production. Construction is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

“1913 Studios is excited to make this commitment to Dayton,” Joey DiFranco, co-founder of 1913 Studios. “This city has incredible infrastructure and a talent pipeline in terms of technology, media production, and the arts. We are looking forward to building our company headquarters here.”

Over the past year, 1913 Studios has been in conversations with organizations such as the City of Dayton, Montgomery County, FilmDayton, the Dayton Development Coalition, JobsOhio, and others as they refined their vision for the space. The facility will be a vertically integrated production studio that includes development, production, and editing suites all under one roof.

“We’ve worked hard to cultivate Montgomery County into a business-friendly area, and we’re excited that 1913 Studios has chosen to build here,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge. “This new, high-tech company is adding to our already diverse economy, and the content produced here will put the Dayton region on the map for media production.”

DiFranco and his 1913 Studios co-founder Seth Hummel both call the region home. DiFranco, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, returned to Dayton in 2019. Hummel, who completed post graduate studies at MIT, is a Dayton native and lifelong resident who has started and grown a number of businesses in the region. “Dayton has a well known history of innovators who have created industry leading technologies. We plan to continue that tradition by cementing this city and 1913 Studios as the premier multimedia production center of the Midwest,” said Hummel.

“This project is such a creative way to breathe new life into a space,” said Maranda Camden, business development manager with Wilcon, the Dayton-based general contractor on the project. “The way 1913 Studios will creatively reuse this massive space underscores their commitment to Dayton. Wilcon is thrilled to be part of this long-term vision and energy that will be concentrated here.”

Rounding out the project team is the Dayton-based architecture firm MODA4.

“Dayton’s architecture and building stock provides so many development opportunities,” said Jamie Owens, Director of Business Development at MODA4. “Having spent years working on The Arcade, we can’t wait to dig into another large project that demonstrates what can happen when a building is creatively modified with aesthetics and technology befitting the 21st century.”

 

ABOUT 1913 STUDIOS: 1913 Studios will be home to a state-of-the-art production facility supporting technology, content development, gaming development, media production and the arts in Dayton, Ohio, a region that embraces opportunity and is supportive of rapid growth.

According to Dayton Regional Film Commissioner Lisa Grigsby, ” 1913 Studios are going to be a game changer for the film industry in Dayton.  Bringing new jobs, internship opportunities and National attention to the students of the Tom Hanks Motion Picture School at Wright State University, FilmDayton knows that the playing field in Dayton just got bigger and we are ready to take on the challenge.”

 

 

Join us in celebrating Julia Reichert!

Get your tickets now!

 

 

 

Netflix films Dave Chappelle Promo with Assistance from FilmDayton spent over $50,000 on hotels, catering, hiring local crew, including drone operators.

 

 

A full-length documentary film from Academy Award-winning directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.

Dayton Premiere of 9to5 – The Story of a Movement Thurs, 10/22 at Dixie Drive -In

In the early 1970s, a group of secretaries in Boston decided that they had suffered in silence long enough. They started fighting back, creating a movement to force changes in their workplaces. This movement became national, and is a largely forgotten story of U.S. twentieth century history. It encapsulates a unique intersection of the women’s movement with the labor movement. The awareness these secretaries brought to bear on women’s work reverberates even today. Clericals were the low-wage workers of their era. America now confronts the growing reality of deep income inequality.

Online Ticket Sales here.

FilmDayton Moving!

We’ve got a new home at the Dayton Mall!
Located on the 2nd floor near JC Penney’s, our new space will host Film Connections and be available for our members to use for castings, table reads, small screenings and classes!

Recent Graduate Steps into the Workforce: Lauren Whitinger

Big thanks to  Lauren Amber Whitinger, an intern who worked with us in May from the Modern College of Design.  She helped us update some graphics, member info and had a chance to work on set with Chase Crawford on film being made in Cincinnati.

 

 

A full-length documentary film from Academy Award-winning directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.

Dayton Premiere of 9to5 – The Story of a Movement Thurs, 10/22 at Dixie Drive -In

In the early 1970s, a group of secretaries in Boston decided that they had suffered in silence long enough. They started fighting back, creating a movement to force changes in their workplaces. This movement became national, and is a largely forgotten story of U.S. twentieth century history. It encapsulates a unique intersection of the women’s movement with the labor movement. The awareness these secretaries brought to bear on women’s work reverberates even today. Clericals were the low-wage workers of their era. America now confronts the growing reality of deep income inequality.

Online Ticket Sales here.
IMG_0254
9to5
92nd Academy Awards – Press Room

Congrats to Jeff Reichert, Julia Reichert, Steve Bognar on their Academy Award for American Factory!

‘American Factory’: Meet the Filmmakers Behind the Oscar-Nominated Doc

Rolling Stone Jan 30, 2020

 

Obamas’ Production Company Wins First Oscar With ‘American Factory’

Variety Feb 9, 2020

 

From China, ‘American Factory’ Subject Chairman Cao Congratulates Film’s Directors on Oscar Win

IndieWire Feb 10, 2020

REGIONALLY CONNECTED FILMS
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GOAT

Fraternity drama produced by James Franco and starring Nick Jonas.

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FILMING DATES:  June 1st, 2nd & 3rd.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

 February Film Connections

Wed, Feb 20th 7-9pm at Wiley’s Comedy Club in the Oregon District

It’s FREE for FilmDayton members, $5 for guests & non-members.

Local Producer Talks About “Redlining: Mapping in Inequality in Dayton and Springfield”

Filmmaker Selena Burks-Rentschler is an Ohio filmmaker, writer and director and last semester taught in the motion pictures program at Wright State University. She’s just wrapped a project where she served as the Associate Producer of Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton and Springfield a documentary that debuts this month on Think TV.  This one-hour documentary tells the story of local families who were impacted by redlining, and the lasting effects of this federal policy on our region. It also makes some surprising discoveries about the roots of redlining that trace back to our region, and some larger-than-life personalities who have been all but forgotten.  recently took time to answer some questions about her involvement with this project.

 

D937: How did you become involved in this project?
SBR: Gloria Skurski, the Chief Education Officer over at ThinkTV, invited me to apply for an associate producer position on a documentary about redlining in Dayton and Springfield. She read Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, and was inspired to make a documentary about the long term ramifications the federal policy of redlining had on the region. I later met with the film’s producer, Richard Wonderling and the three of us had a conversation on the importance to tell a local story, to not only discuss the challenges, but to also show the resiliancy of the communities who’ve been adversely impacted by redlining and other forms of housing discrimination.
We were all on the same page and that was incredibly valuable.  I lived in redline communities as a child.  And I remember not being able to wrap my mind around the reasons why my neighborhood didn’t have access to certain amenities such as grocery stores, doctors offices or banks. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to describe what it was until I became apart of the production team.

 

 

D937: What do you learn from working on it?

Mrs. Lelia Francis

SBR: One of the first things I did was read Rothstein’s The Color of Law, it was required reading and rightly so. There was a distinction made between De Facto segregation and De Jure segregation. And redlining was government sponsored segregation.

When I studied the maps from University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality website, and read detailed descriptions I was floored by the verbiage used to describe immigrants, people of color, and specifically African Americans. There’s so much I learned from working on this documentary, too much to say here. But I will say I learned about some of the local civil rights activists and heroes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Most notably, Mrs. Lelia Francis. She was the first Black woman real estate agent in the nation and the first Black real estate agent in the state of Ohio. Not only that, she owned a successful real estate business with her husband and was one of the founders of Dayton’s first Black owned and operated bank, Unity State Bank.


D937: Why should people watch this? 
SBR: Our goal with this documentary was to inform, educate and create a space for dialogue around the discussion of our country’s history. When one group suffers, we all pay the price. In order to address the issues of racial disparities in health, education, economics and housing, we must understand how we arrived here. And as I’ve said before, knowledge is power. It’s essential to unpack the legacy redlining has had on the Miami Valley region because what happened here has happened in every major city across America. This documentary lays bare the government’s role in mapping our segregated cities and suburbs, which left many Black Americans with little to no options on ways to access the American Dream.

 

Airdates for the documentary are:

Thursday February 24, at 9pm on ThinkTV16
Sunday, February 27, 1:00pm on ThinkTV16


Attend A Table Read for A Midsummer’s Night Dream

Join local filmmaker Shaunn Baker on April 25th at 7pm at The Loft Theatre as professional actors read through the script for his upcoming movie. Reserve your free seat here.

The adaptation is set in Appalachia during the 1800s, and uses Appalachian dialect with the original Shakespearean verse.

“Shakespeare’s words performed with this dialect are really beautiful, as it turns out,” said local filmmaker Shaunn Baker who adapted the screenplay and is working to get the script produced as a feature film. “It’s a rougher sound, closer to the Old English the play would have been performed in originally. A very different experience from hearing the story in the more traditional ‘heightened’ dialect we typically associate with Shakespeare. My hope is that the roughness of the Appalachian culture and accent will make this adaptation much more accessible to contemporary audiences.”
This project is generously supported (in part) through an Artist Opportunity Grant funded by the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District and administered by Culture Works.

Table Read for A Midsummer’s Night Dream

You’re invited to join local filmmaker Shaunn Baker at a table read on April 25th at 7pm at The Loft Theatre.
Reserve your free seat here.

The adaptation is set in Appalachia during the 1800s, and uses Appalachian dialect with the original Shakespearean verse.

“Shakespeare’s words performed with this dialect are really beautiful, as it turns out,” said local filmmaker Shaunn Baker who adapted the screenplay and is working to get the script produced as a feature film. “It’s a rougher sound, closer to the Old English the play would have been performed in originally. A very different experience from hearing the story in the more traditional ‘heightened’ dialect we typically associate with Shakespeare. My hope is that the roughness of the Appalachian culture and accent will make this adaptation much more accessible to contemporary audiences.”
This project is generously supported (in part) through an Artist Opportunity Grant funded by the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District and administered by Culture Works.

 

 

https://planned2give.networkforgood.com/events/42285-table-read-for-a-midsummer-s-night-dream