A Lion in the House

Five children fight against cancer with the help of their families, nurses, and doctors over a span of six years.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
June 21, 2006
240 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival-Special Jury Citation
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Nashville Independent Film Festival-Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 BritDoc Film Festival-Grand Jury Prize, Runner Up
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Cleveland International Film Festival-Special Jury Prize
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival-Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2007 Primetime Emmy Awards-Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 Council On Foundations-Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 Intercultural Cancer Council-Susan Matsuko Shinagawa LIVESTRONG Cancer Control Leadership Award
  • Producer

    Julia Reichert

    Ohio-based Julia Reichert is a four-time Academy Award nominee and Oscar winner for her documentary work, which often explores class, gender and race. Julia’s student film GROWING UP FEMALE was the first feature documentary of the modern Women's Movement, and was selected for the National Film Registry. Her films UNION MAIDS and SEEING RED: Stories of American Communists, Show more (with Jim Klein) were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Feature Documentary, as was THE LAST TRUCK (made with Steven Bognar), as a Short. Her film A LION IN THE HOUSE (also with Bognar) premiered at Sundance and won the Primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking. The couple won the 2020 Academy Award for AMERICAN FACTORY 美国工厂. Julia is co-founder of New Day Films, the independent film distribution co-op. She was an advisor on the creation of the IFP and the PBS series P.O.V, and is co-founder of Indie Caucus. She mentored dozens of emerging filmmakers over the years as a Professor of Motion Pictures at Wright State University. Reichert is also the author of Doing It Yourself, the first book on self-distribution in independent film. She is a member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Television Academy. In 2018, the International Documentary Association (IDA) gave Julia their Career Achievement Award. In 2019, the Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts teamed up to present a traveling retrospective of Julia’s films. She is also a proud mom and grandma. Show less


    Steven Bognar

    Steven Bognar is an Oscar and Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Ohio. With his partner Julia Reichert, he has directed and produced AMERICAN FACTORY (2020 Academy Award winner), THE LAST TRUCK (2009 Academy Award Short nominee), and A LION IN THE HOUSE (Primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking). Their films have Show more screened at top film festivals, and on HBO, PBS and Netflix. Bognar’s first feature documentary, PERSONAL BELONGINGS, which he produced, directed & edited, premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, and screened that year at SXSW, IDFA and on P.O.V. His short films include LAST REEL (Telluride Film Festival premiere), FOUNDRY NIGHT SHIFT (True/False Film Festival premiere), NO GUNS FOR CHRISTMAS (New York Times Op-Doc) and PICTURE DAY (Sundance Film Festival premiere). He is a former Professor of Motion Pictures at Wright State University, and has guest lectured at Harvard, Yale & Stanford universities. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Show less

    We fund untold stories for public media.

    Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

    The Film

    A Lion in the House follows the stories of five exceptional children and their families as they battle pediatric cancer. From the trauma of diagnosis to the physical toll of treatment, this series documents the stresses that can tear a family apart as well as the courage of children facing the possibility of death with honesty, dignity, and humor. As the film compresses six years into one narrative, it puts viewers in the shoes of parents, physicians, nurses, siblings, grandparents, and social workers who struggle to defeat an indiscriminate and predatory disease.

    This unprecedented portrait of pediatric cancer’s life-altering effects introduces 7-year-old Alex, a bundle of energy with dark eyes and curls; and Tim, a mercurial, quick-witted 16-year-old with a thousand-watt smile. Justin is amiable and stalwart at 19, despite 10 years of fighting the disease. Jen is a serious, quiet 6-year-old and Al is a quicksilver, wry 11-year-old.

    Each child has a unique experience in confronting the disease and the treatment, but each embarks on a journey that is bewildering, terrifying, nearly unbearable, and certainly quite unlike anything most people associate with a normal childhood. The families of the children join them on their harrowing odyssey, and regardless of outcome, no one involved will ever be the same again.