Dayton filmmakers Julia Reichert and Jim Klein’s 1971 documentary Growing Up Female has been selected as one of 25 films to join landmark works of American cinema on the National Film Registry.
Reichert and Klein are both professors in Wright State University’s nationally recognized motion pictures program.
Each year, the National Film Registry selects up to 25 motion pictures deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress.
This year, 2,228 films were nominated for the National Film Registry. Growing Up Female made the cut, along with Bambi, Forrest Gump, Porgy and Bess, Norma Rae, Silence of the Lambs and others.
“These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams.”
Growing Up Female was one of the first films to emerge from the modern Women’s Liberation Movement. The movie was filmed in the spring of 1970, when both Reichert and Klein were students at Antioch College in Ohio.
Filmed in black and white 16mm, Growing Up Female profiles six women, aged 4 to 34, examining the limits of their lives and choices in America at the dawn of the Women’s Movement. The film explores the ways in which the institutions of school, marriage, advertising and family impact how girls and women see themselves and the possibilities for their lives.
The film toured America extensively in the 1970s, often screening in church basements, youth groups, community centers and libraries. It went on to wide distribution as the Movement grew and impacted all aspects of society.
Gloria Steinem, one of the unforgettable faces of the women’s movement, called Growing Up Female “a true and piercing look at American womanhood.”
Growing Up Female also launched the independent film distribution cooperative New Day Films, which Reichert and Klein co-created with filmmakers Amalie R. Rothschild and Liane Brandon. The co-op today is home to over 100 independent filmmakers from all regions of America.
In 2011, Growing Up Female was restored by a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, and screened recently at the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center and the American Film Institute.
Reichert and Klein went on to make the films Union Maids and Seeing Red, which were both nominated for Academy Awards for Best Feature Documentary. Klein went on to direct Letter to the Next Generation and Taken for a Ride, both of which screened on the national PBS series POV. Reichert went on to co-direct the Emmy-winning A Lion in the House and the Academy Award—nominated The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.
“Julia and Jim are really the historians of our time,” said W. Stuart McDowell, chair of the Wright State Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures. “Their films hold a camera up to humanity and document the age in which we live.”