FRONT RUNNERS: Local couple nab major film award on the way to Oscar night (and look adorable doing it)

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

A Yellow Springs couple left the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles Saturday with one of the biggest prizes the film industry offers.

Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for their locally filmed movie "American Factory."

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

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 rocked matching shaved heads and coordinating suits during the ceremony.

Hand in hand with Bognar, Reichert led him in a jog to the podium after reaching the stage.

“Our story comes from my hometown in Ohio, and it is about working people. Documentarians bear witness, and we are profoundly grateful to the factory workers in Dayton, Ohio and Fuqing, China who allowed us to tell their stories and bear witness to their hopes for a good safe job, for a secure life and for a future for their children,” Reichert said.

She said those in the room have a collective voice through the Directors Guild of America.

“People who do the work around the world are under more pressure, are being pushed harder and harder to work longer hours, to work in dangerous situations —  work longer, faster for less pay and less security while billionaires multiply (wealth),” Reichert said. “Is this the world we want to live in? We hope our story raises that question and brings change.”

“American Factory” was selected over “One Child Nation,” “The Cave,” “Maiden,” “Honeyland.”

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Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

It was the first time either Bognar or Reichert had been nominated for the prestigious Directors Guild prize.

The win positions “American Factory” as a front-runner for the Oscar in the documentary feature category.

The winning films will be announced Sunday, Feb. 9, at the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony.

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

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

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.

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."

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Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

“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.

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Bognar and Reichert, a Yellow Springs couple together for more than 30 years, previously 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 that now houses Fuyao in Moraine.

“The world is kind of going in not a direction everybody likes,” Reichert told Variety. “We all see the billionaire class is really growing and working people are being held down. For America, is the American dream even possible anymore?”

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

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