Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Julia Reichert has been creating influential films for decades, many of them detailing the hardships of her community in Ohio. Now, 50 years of her work is being celebrated at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
The Wexner Center is in the process of screening Reichert’s half-century in the film industry through a retrospective film series featuring 10 of Reichert’s works throughout the month of October.
Reichert kicked off the series in person with a reception Wednesday, and she will return Oct. 17 to host a documentary filmmaking masterclass with her partner, Steven Bognar.
The Reichert exhibit has been in the works for many years and will be touring several other locations, Melissa Starker, creative content and public relations manager, said.
“Other filmmakers start with an opinion that is cemented from the beginning, and they create a film to illustrate what they already believe,” Starker said. “[Reichert] just documents and shares and trusts the audience to make up their own mind once they have the information.”
However, Reichert said she disagreed with Starker’s assessment.
“The editing process is huge. You really are trying to direct the audience’s attention,” she said.
Reichert’s film “A Lion in the House,” won a Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking in 2007. The film, which follows the lives of five children suffering from cancer, is considered cinema verite, a documentary style that incorporates more natural interactions between the subjects.
“The feeling you’re creating, the audience immerses in the situation, follows it along, there’s no narrator … you want the audience to have their own thoughts and feelings about it,” Reichert said.
Reichert added that despite a desire to guide audience members through the story, it is important not to manipulate them.
Reichert’s first feature-length film, “Growing Up Female,” was released in 1970.
In the height of the women’s liberation movement, “women didn’t trust other women,” Reichert said. The debate for sexual equality and feminism had come to a boiling point.
“All of the images of women that there were [in the media], were all created by men, so where were the images we [women] felt were real?” Reichert said.
This flurry of determination and desire compelled Reichert to take up filmmaking and document the women’s movement in her debut film, “Growing Up Female,” she said. Reichert credited her motivation for filming to her desire to express ideas that she felt were important.
Several of Reichert’s films focus on the workforce and unheard stories of laborers. Starker said Reichert’s work is important due to anti-union topics covered in the news.
“She’s covered these struggles for so long and illustrated what it was like before [unions],” Starker said.
Her upcoming projects include “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” which she and Bognar are currently working on. The film will be shown during the exhibit as a work in progress.
Reichert said the ideas for her films come from her own experiences. “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” was produced when the General Motors plant in her town of Moraine, Ohio, was closing, and she knew it would have a large impact on her community, which played a role in the filming of “The Last Truck.”
Reichert still lives in Ohio to keep in touch with the community.
“There are so many great stories here,” Reichert said.
The Wexner Center will host screenings throughout the month, some free of charge and others for $5 per student. The documentary filmmaking masterclass will be at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17 free of charge. More information can be found on the Wexner Center’s website.