Obama salutes Dayton filmmakers for Oscar-nominated movie about local factory workers

“We are proud to be from Dayton, Ohio, today, and we are grateful to be able to represent our town at the big show,”  Dayton director says.

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

The former president of the United States just gave local filmmakers a very big shout-out for their Oscar-nominated film about local residents.

Barack Obama saluted Yellow Springs residents Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert and the rest of the team behind "American Factory."

The movie is among the films announced today as nominees for the Academy Awards in the documentary feature category.

Obama's Twitter shout-out doesn't exactly come as a surprise.

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

The Tweet reads:

“Glad to see American Factory’s Oscar nod for Best Documentary. It’s the kind of story we don’t see often enough and it’s exactly what Michelle and I hope to achieve with Higher Ground. Congrats to the incredible filmmakers and entire team!”

>> The story behind ‘American Factory’ with Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar

“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.

Bognar and Reichert, a Yellow Springs couple together for more than 30 years, 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 in Moraine.

Reached by phone while in Portland to participate in "Julia Reichert: 50 Years in Film," Bognar and Reichert said they are pleased the film about working people is getting so much national attention.

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

“We believe there are not enough stories of Midwest people and working people — people who punch a clock every day,” Reichert said. “(The Oscar nomination) says that Midwestern working people and their stories matter.”

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The Oscar nomination is the fourth for Reichert, who is currently battling nested variant urothelial carcinoma, a rare and deadly cancer.

Each of her Oscar-nominated documentaries told the story of workers.

Aside from “Last Truck” and “American Factory,” she was nominated for the first time in 1978 with James Klein and Miles Mogulescu for “Union Maids,” and again with Klein in 1984 for “Seeing Red.”

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This is the third year in a row the Miami Valley will have a direct connection to the awards.

Centerville High School 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.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Dayton celebrates Hannah Beachler’s historic Oscar win

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."

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Allison Janney wins Oscar glory 

Springfield native John Legend won the 2015 Oscar for Best Original Song for "Glory".

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Other films up for the 2020 documentary Oscar include “The Cave,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “For Sama” and “Honeyland.”

Reichert and Bognar’s honor has elated many Daytonians.

"This nomination is icing on the cake. We already knew that Steve, Julia and their team had created one of the best and most powerful films of the year, and we're so proud and lucky to know them as active members of the community as well as great friends and mentors," Neon movies manager Jonathan McNeal said. "This nomination is tremendous for the region. Three Daytonians over the past three years — that speaks to the creative and talented resources we have right here in the Miami Valley. The arts and arts education are alive and well in Dayton."

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Aubrey Keith,  Erick Stoll, Liz Yong Lowe, David Holm and Eric Risher — all graduates of Wright's State's Motion Picture Program — worked on the film.

Both Reichert and Bognar have taught at Wright State.

Reichert and Bognar also noted the work of “American Factory” editor Lindsay Utz, producer Jeff Reichert and Chinese-based co-producers Yiqian Zhang and Mijie LI.

They say the project that led to “American Factory” was sparked by Jeff Hoagland of the Dayton Development Coalition and J.P. Nauseef of JobsOhio.

“This film happened because of the incredible support we get from everyone in Dayton, Ohio,” said Bognar, a Beavercreek native. “We are proud to be from Dayton, Ohio, today, and we are grateful to be able to represent our town at the big show.”

Credit: Theo Wargo

Credit: Theo Wargo

Bognar said he and Reichert were honored to be trusted to share the stories of Fuyao’s American and Chinese workers and chairman Cho Tak Wong.

“It is no small thing to trust someone to tell your story,” he said. “There is no film if we don’t have that trust, and we are deeply deeply grateful.”

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Wong offered to bring Reichert to China for treatment and checked on her just last week through an intermediate.

Reichert, who recently completed a round of chemotherapy, said she has had many painful days since being diagnosed with cancer in May 2018, but is fighting with the help of Bognar, her daughter Lela Klein and a host of family and friends.

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“It has been really hard with this cancer fight to do everything, but I am very hopeful that I will get some more good times and not be sick,” she said, noting the new therapies. “I could not do it without Lela and Steve.”

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