Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, whose production company Higher Ground backed the documentary American Factory, congratulated the film’s directors after their Oscar win Sunday in Documentary Feature.
“Congrats to Julia [Reichert] and Steven [Bognar], the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change,” the 44th president tweeted. “Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release.”
Michelle Obama added a tweet of her own a few minutes after her husband’s: “Congrats to Julia, Steven, and the whole crew on winning Best Documentary for #AmericanFactory, Higher Ground’s first release! So glad to see their heart and honesty recognized—because the best stories are rarely tidy or perfect. But that’s where the truth so often lies.”
The Obamas came on board the film as executive producers after it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year, making it the first title in their multi-year deal with Netflix. American Factory focuses on the effort of Fuyao, a Chinese auto glass maker, to set up a factory on the footprint of an old GM plant outside the filmmakers’ home base of Dayton, Ohio. The venture triggered controversy, because Fuyao employees were discouraged from joining a union and they earned less than half the hourly wage that had been paid by GM. The film has been praised as a nuanced look at the cross cultural and economic challenges faced by both management and employees as they tried to make a success of Fuyao Glass America.
American Factory also brought Oscar glory to Participant Media, which produced the film.
“We are deeply humbled and grateful to the Academy for this exciting honor,” Participant CEO David Linde said in a statement to Deadline. “At Participant, we believe that storytelling has the ever-important opportunity to spark positive social change in our world today. We are incredibly proud of American Factory, and congratulate Steve, Julia, Jeff and our friends and colleagues at Netflix and Higher Ground for helping us shed light on these important issues worldwide and here at home.”
Participant’s chief content officer, Diane Weyermann, added, “I couldn’t be more thrilled for Steve, Julia and the entire American Factory filmmaking team on this much deserved honor. American Factory is the result of years of dedication and passion for their community and an issue close to their hearts, so I know just how much this means to them.”
It’s the first Oscar win for Reichert after four nominations and first win for Bognar after his second nomination.
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