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Oscar-Winning Documentary Filmmaker Julia Reichert Dead at 76

Julia Reichert attends the Women's Panel during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Loberto Theatre on January 25, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California.
Julia Reichert attends the Women's Panel during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Loberto Theatre on January 25, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Documentary filmmaker and 2020 Academy Award-winner Julia Reichert has died from urothelial cancer. She was 76.

On Friday, Reichert's partner and frequent film collaborator Steven Bognar confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Reichert died Thursday night in her home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with her family present.

Reichert was born on June 16, 1946 in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1971, she co-founded New Day Films, a documentary film cooperative that still exits today, in order to provide options for distribution for movies made by and about women, according to THR.

Reichert and Bognar won an Oscar for Best Documentary (Feature) for their 2019 film American Factory, which was one of four Academy Award nominations Reichert received during her career.

The filmmaker attended the Oscars in February 2020 even while she underwent chemotherapy and took the stage with Bognar to accept their award for their movie, which centers on a "Chinese billionaire who reopens an abandoned GM plant outside Dayton, Ohio," according to THR.

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"Just being in the presence of our sister and brother documentarians, who risk their lives making stories, bringing stories to us about hospitals being bombed, about Brazil — we are so proud, we are inspired," Reichert said during her acceptance speech for the award at the time.

JULIA REICHERT, STEVEN BOGNAR, JEFF REICHERT
JULIA REICHERT, STEVEN BOGNAR, JEFF REICHERT

CRAIG SJODIN via Getty

The documentary was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama's company Higher Ground and was picked up by Netflix for distribution.

"Our film is from Ohio and China, but really could be from anywhere where people put on a uniform, punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life," Reichert added in her speech. "Working people have it harder and harder these days. We believe things will get better when workers of the world unite."

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The Library of Congress inducted Reichert's first movie, 1971's Growing Up Female, into its National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant," according to THR.

Reichert's most recent work included an untitled documentary about comedian Dave Chappelle, which premiered at Tribecas Film Festival in May 2021, according to Vulture.

Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Julia Reichert, winners of the Documentary Feature award for “American Factory,” attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.
Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Julia Reichert, winners of the Documentary Feature award for “American Factory,” attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty

The movie focused on Chappelle's town in Ohio "during the early days of the pandemic" and captured events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, as well as 49-year-old Chappelle's outdoor, socially distanced comedy shows he put on near his Ohio home in 2020, according to the outlet.

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In January 2020, Reichert told THR that her illness was terminal and that winning an Oscar at the time "would be extremely meaningful after four nominations and my age and my state of life. It would be very meaningful."

The filmmaker is survived by three brothers Louis, Craig and Joseph Reichert, her daughter Lela Klein, nephew Jeff Reichert, and two grandchildren, in addition to Bognar, according to THR.