Julia Reichert usually collaborated with her partner on her documentaries. (Image via Steve Granitz/Getty)

Who was Julia Reichert? Tributes pour in as Oscar-winning documentarian passes away at 76

American filmmaker Julia Reichert passed away at the age of 76 after a lengthy battle with urothelial cancer.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Reichert died on December 1, 2022, at her Yellow Springs, Ohio residence. At the time, she was surrounded by her family and longtime partner, Steven Bognar.

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Reichert's career as a documentarian spanned over 50 years and included an Oscar, which she bagged in 2020 for the documentary American Factory. The film is about a Chinese billionaire who runs a deserted GM plant outside of Ohio that makes car windshields. Interestingly, American Factory features Chinese and American workers gelling together in the midst of installing modern technology.


Julia Reichert often collaborated with her husband to make films on sociocultural themes

Born on June 16, 1946, Julia was the daughter of Louis and Dorothy Reichert and a native of Princeton, New Jersey. She graduated from Bordentown Regional High School in 1964 before beginning her career as a documentarian.

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In 1971, she and Jim Klein founded New Day Films after they had limited options to distribute films made by and around women. The company operates to date.

Regarded as the "godmother of the indie film industry," Julia began her career with the 1971 film Growing Up Female, which was dubbed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress's National Film Registry.

I will never forget this night, sitting next to Julia Reichert at dinner and talking film and filmmaking. She was a gift to us all. @WDTN

Reichert frequently collaborated with her husband, Steven Bognar, and made films on gender inequality, class biases, and middle-class getting impacted by the economy and race. Some of her Oscar-nominated films include Union Maids (1976), Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983), and The Last Truck: Closing of A GM Plant (2009).

In a June 2019 interview with CBC radio, Julia was asked if she always wanted to change the world or be a filmmaker, to which she responded:

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“Oh, certainly change the world … That was definitely what was on our minds. I use ‘our’ because we really felt part of a big movement right at that time — the late ’60s into the mid-’70s and beyond.”

She also revealed that she never dubbed herself a filmmaker until others started doing so.

In January 2006, Julia was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went into remission the same year. However, Stage 4 urothelial cancer was diagnosed again in 2018.


"A filmmaker, class warrior, radical feminist, and mentor": Tributes pour after netizens come to know of Julia Reichert's death

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After the news of Julia's death went viral, Twitteratis paid tribute to the celebrated filmmaker's contribution. Several users remembered her activism and vision in documentaries produced, with one calling her a "patriot" for making films that captured "authentic images of 21st century American labor."

Julia Reichert made the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory (which in my view is required viewing for American social studies).

She captured authentic images of 21st century American Labor for the public to see. For that, she’s a patriot.

Rest in Peace
RIP Julia Reichert. She made American Factory AND A Lion in the House AND she yelled "Workers of the world unite!" on stage at the Oscars. And she and Steve were so nice to me 25 years ago in Dayton, Ohio when they had no reason to be. One of the giants of documentary filmmaking.
Our hearts are broken, but we find solace in remembering the love and genius she brought to us and the world. She was friend, family, and a true model for engaged artists everywhere. Please everyone put Julia Reichert (1946-2022) in your thoughts today and every day.
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Julia Reichert. The Godmother of American Documentary. We celebrate her life and work, her activism and mentorship. We are richer for having her in our lives.
My friend Julia Reichert has died. She was a filmmaker, class warrior, radical feminist, and mentor to many, including me. Pure of heart, sharp of mind, generous of spirit. Our world is dimmer today.
My Film Professor, and Documentarian, at Wright State University in Ohio, Julia Reichert, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. She was a champion of women and loved film. She took us rag tag kids and helped shape us all into filmmakers& storytellers
Very sad to hear the news about the passing of the great Julia Reichert, a remarkably talented filmmaker and a champion of independent documentary filmmaking. I will miss her, we will miss her.
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Thank you Julia Reichert. We were so fortunate to have you in our world. 🏽
RIP Julia Reichert. A loving community of colleagues mourns you. You were courageous, strong and kind and you will live on through the legacy of your enormously important work.
We are heartbroken with the news of master documentary filmmaker Julia Reichert's passing today.

Reichert received the Career Achievement Award at the 2018 IDA Documentary Awards. #RIP
Don’t believe I ever met someone who lived as fully, as fiercely, as thoughtfully as Julia Reichert. She was a trailblazer, a warrior, a champion of working people, and simply the best company. Watch our @walkerartcenter dialogue to see what I mean.
youtu.be/ReqcAwn5GjM
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Screenshot of a tribute to Julia Reichert.
Screenshot of a tribute to Julia Reichert.
Screenshot of a tribute to Julia Reichert.
Screenshot of a tribute to Julia Reichert.

Reichert left behind her partner Bognar, daughter Lela Klein Holt, two grandchildren, three siblings, and a nephew.

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Edited by
Priya Majumdar
 
 
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