Julia Reichert, an American filmmaker, died at the age of 76 after a long battle with urothelial carcinoma. Reichert died at her home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Dec. 1, 2022, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was accompanied by her family and longtime lover, Steven Bognar, at this time. Reichert’s documentary career spanned more than 50 years and included an Oscar, which she won in 2020 for the documentary American Factory. The plot revolves around a Chinese billionaire who operates a decommissioned GM facility outside of Ohio that produces windshields for automobiles. Interestingly, American Factory shows Chinese and American workers working together as they implement advanced technologies.
Julia Reichert was born on June 16, 1946 in Princeton, New Jersey, to Louis and Dorothy Reichert. She graduated from Bordentown Regional High School in 1964 and went on to work as a documentary filmmaker. She and Jim Klein launched New Day Films in 1971 after realizing that there were few opportunities to distribute films made by and about women. The company is still in operation today.
Known as the “godmother of the independent cinema world,” Julia began her career with the 1971 film Growing Up Female, which was labeled “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Reichert regularly collaborated with her husband, Steven Bognar, on documentaries about gender inequality, class prejudice, and the influence of the economy and racism on the middle class. Union Maids (1976), Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983), and The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant are among her Oscar-nominated films (2009).
Julia was asked in a June 2019 interview with CBC radio if she always intended to improve the world or become a filmmaker, to which she replied:
“Oh, definitely transform the world… That’s exactly what we thought. I say ‘our’ because we felt we were part of a big movement at the time – the late 1960s to the mid 1970s and beyond.”
She also claimed that she never called herself a filmmaker until others did. Julia was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s non-lymphoma in January 2006 and went into remission the following year. However, in 2018, a new case of stage 4 urothelial carcinoma was discovered.
“A filmmaker, class fighter, radical feminist and mentor,” said netizens after learning of Julia Reichert’s death.
After Julia’s death, Twitterati paid tribute to the acclaimed filmmaker’s work. Several users recalled her activism and vision in documentaries, with one calling her a “patriot” for making films that captured “real take on 21st century American work.”
Our hearts are broken, but we find comfort in the memory of the love and genius she brought to us and the world. She was a friend, family and a true model for engaged artists everywhere. Please all, bring to mind Julia Reichert (1946-2022) today and every day. pic.twitter.com/r8aZLk0Dwv
— Reverse Shot (@reverse_shot) December 2, 2022
RIP Julia Reichert. She made American Factory AND A Lion in the House AND she shouted “Workers of the world unite!” on the podium at the Oscars. And she and Steve were so nice to me 25 years ago in Dayton, Ohio, when they had no reason to. One of the giants of documentary filmmaking. pic.twitter.com/SsHhu3J4oj
— Dusty (@huskydusty) December 2, 2022