Yellow Springs filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert win a 2020 Academy Award for best documentary feature for "American Factory."

Dayton Oscar winner: ‘Stories are here, and the storytellers can be from here’

Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert have some tough decisions to make — like where to put all the trophies they’ve won this awards season.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: (L-R) Julia Reichert, Lindsay Utz, Steven Bognar, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello accept the Documentary - Feature - award for 'American Factory' onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

There are the Directors Guild of America awards, The Independent Spirit awards and, most sparkly of all, the Academy Awards they picked up Sunday in the documentary feature category for “American Factory.” 

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Reached by phone Monday morning, Bognar said it all seems surreal.

“I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude. It is a crazy moment,” he said. “Several times we would look down at the Oscar right next to us and just blink. Is this real?”  

Bognar is not sure where he’ll put his Oscar. 

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“What does one do with an Oscar? Maybe I should ask Hannah Beachler,” Bognar said with a laugh, referring to the 2019 Oscar-winner raised in Centerville. “Maybe my granddaughter will put some dress on it.” 


Bognar and Reichert’s win marks the third year in a row that the Miami Valley has had a direct connection to the Oscars. 

he Washington Twp. resident Robert "Bobby" Allen took this selfie on the red carpet before the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10. Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar can be seen behind him. Allen was featured in the Yellow Springs couple's Oscar-winning film "American Factory."
Photo: Robert "Bobby" Allen

Beachler, a Centerville High School and Wright State University graduate, won in the production design category for her work on Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

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.”

Bognar said he hopes the streak continues for Dayton because it sends a message to the world. 

“It says that stories are here, and the storytellers can be from here,” he said. 

“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 who have been together 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.

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

Bognar said he and Reichert hope “American Factory” shines light on the plight of workers and income inequality.

These topics have long been a focus of Reichert’s work. 

In addition to “The Last Truck” and “American Factory,” Reichert 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.”

The couple’s next project, “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” deals with secretaries fighting for equality in the workplace. The film will make its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. 

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“It is really important to talk about what it is like for working people,” Bognar said. “We just feel strongly that these stories need to be told.” 

Jill Lamantia, Bobby Allen, Wong He and Rob Haerr on Oscar night. Their stories were featured in "American Factory." SARA LAMANTIA/CONTRIBUTED

Bognar said one of the best parts about the experience was walking the red carpet and bopping around with the current and past Fuyao Glass employees featured in the film including Jill Lamantia, Shawnea Rosser-Carter, Robert “Bobby” Allen, Wong He and Rob Haerr

Allen says it was unreal to see so many stars on the red carpet.

Washington Twp. resident Robert “Bobby” Allen took this photo with actor Mark Ruffalo after American Factory won the Oscar in the documentary feature category. Allen is featured in the film.
Photo: Robert Allen

“Watching a live TV show and seeing all the behind-the-scenes preparation is mind-boggling,” Allen said.

Bognar said he and Reichert, who is battling cancer, are grateful for the supportive they receive from fellow Daytonians. 

“We couldn’t do what we do without the incredible support we get from our friends and family in Dayton,” he said.  

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