Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s American Factory has taken the best documentary feature prize at the 92nd Academy Awards, held Sunday (Feb. 9) at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
American Factory (pictured) is a portrait of an abandoned General Motors plant in post-industrial Ohio, and the culture clash that ensues when the factory is purchased by a Chinese billionaire.
“Even before that envelope got opened, just being in the presence of our sister and brother documentarians, who risked their lives making stories, bringing stories to us about hospitals being bombed in Syria, about Brazil, about Macedonia — we are so proud,” Reichert said in her speech. “Our film is from Ohio and China… But it really could be from anywhere that people put on a uniform, punch a clock, try to make their families have a better life. Working people have it harder and harder these days and we believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”
The Netflix Original Documentary from Higher Ground Productions and Participant debuted on the streamer in August 2019. American Factory was the first title acquired by former President Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, following its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello are producers. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyerman serve as executive producers.
Nominees in the category included Feras Fayyad’s The Cave, Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy, Edward Watts and Waad Al-Kateab’s For Sama; and Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland.
Honeyland was the only documentary nominated in the international feature film category, losing out to Bong Joon-ho’s drama Parasite.
Elsewhere, the Academy Award for best documentary short went to Carol Dysinger’s Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), the story of young Afghan girls learning to read, write and skateboard in Kabul.
The film was up against nominees Seung-jun Yi’s In the Absence; Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas’ Life Overtakes Me; Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan’s St. Louis Superman; and Laura Nix’s Walk Run Cha-Cha.
Fifteen films had been shortlisted in the documentary feature category, revealed Dec. 16, selected from 159 titles put forward for consideration in November.