American-Hungarian filmmaker Steven Bognar wins Oscar for American Factory

American Factory is a highly praised American documentary directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. It deservedly won an Academy Award this year in the documentary film category.  The film is about a Chinese company’s takeover of an old General Motors plant near Dayton, Ohio and the struggle of the American workers trying to adjust to the Chinese management.

Steve Bognar is a US-born independent filmmaker who speaks fluent Hungarian, in fact, he spoke a couple of words at the press conference after the Academy Awards ceremony.  American Factory was released by Higher Ground Productions, a company founded by former U.S. president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. In the past Bognar’s work has been sponsored by various organizations, among them the National Endowment for the Arts and the Soros Documentary Fund.

Steve’s late father, Béla Bognár was well known in the Hungarian American community. He taught at Wright State University and generously financed the Bognár Family Hungarian Scholarship Fund.  He died last year at the age of 88 and in 2015 the Orbán government honored him with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. (Read more here about Béla Bognár)

In 1966 Steve made a highly personal and “very Hungarian” documentary about his dad’s turbulent life entitled Personal Belongings.  The film follows his father’s first return to Hungary after 30 years and explores his parents’ complex relationship.  Here is a clip from that movie.

I was not surprised that Hungary’s government controlled media ignored Steve Bognar’s Academy Award.  His association with the Obamas and support from George Soros were not looked upon favorably by the Orbán government.

In the 1930´s when many Hungarians succeeded in Hollywood, there was a legend about a sign on the door of film director George Cukor; “It’s not enough to be Hungarian to make films. One must also have talent.”  Today it is not enough to have Hungarian ancestry and talent, one must be a conservative republican in order to be appreciated by the government in Budapest.

György Lázár

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