(WB) Transgender filmmaker and researcher Reina Gossett has accused “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” director David France of stealing her idea for the documentary.
The film, which is streaming on Netflix, examines Johnson’s involvement in the Stonewall riots, her transgender activism and mysterious death. Gossett, who is an activist-in-residence at the Barnard College Center for Research on Women’s Social Justice Institute, worked on the short film “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” with Sasha Wortzel.
In an Instagram post, Gossett explains that France stole her film idea and research to make the Netflix documentary.
“This week while I’m borrowing money to pay rent, David France is releasing his multimillion-dollar netflix deal on Marsha P. Johnson. This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life,” Gossett writes.
Gossett says that she and Wortzel sent a grant application video to the Kalamazoo/Arcus Foundation while France was visiting.
“He told the people who worked there — I shit you not — that he should be the one to do this film,” Gossett writes. [He] got a grant from Sundance/Arcus using my language and research about STAR, got Vimeo to remove my video of Sylvia’s critical ‘y’all better quiet down’ speech, ripped off decades of my archival research that I experienced so much violence to get, had his staff call Sasha up at work to get our contacts, then hired my and Sasha’s ADVISOR to our Marsha film Kimberly Reed to be his producer.”
#deepshare #realtruth this week while I'm borrowing money to pay rent, david france is releasing his multimillion dollar netflix deal on marsha p johnson. i'm still lost in the music trying to #pay_it_no_mind and reeling on how this movie came to be and make so much $ off of our lives and ideas. david got inspired to make this film from a grant application video that @sashawortzel & I made and sent to Kalamazoo/Arcus Foundation social justice center while he was visiting. He told the people who worked there -i shit you not- that he should be the one to do this film, got a grant from Sundance/Arcus using my language and research about STAR, got Vimeo to remove my video of Sylvia's critical "y'all better quiet down" speech, ripped off decades of my archival research that i experienced so much violence to get, had his staff call Sasha up at work to get our contacts then hired my and Sasha's *ADVISOR* to our Marsha film Kimberly Reed to be his producer. And that's just the shit I have the spoons to name. TRUST🥄THERE'S🥄SO🥄MUCH 🥄MORE🥄. This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life. So I feel so much rage and grief over all of this & STAR must have some serious level plan on moving through many---and clearly by any means necessary---to get the message out... So tonight I'm channeling high priestess energy to show me the honey throne cuz this storm queen is 😖😫😱
A post shared by Reina Gossett (@reinaxgossett) on
Janet Mock posted Gossett’s statement on Twitter and slammed France for taking the opportunity away from a transgender woman.
Filmmaker David France released a Netflix doc Friday about Marsha P. Johnson. It is based on Reina Gossett’s work (her statement below). pic.twitter.com/YtQiVMuOjm— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
Reina Gossett is a black trans woman who reintroduced our gen to ourselves by uncovering/recentering trans women of color revolutionaries.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
Her digital archives of movement foremothers Marsha P. Johnson & Sylvia Rivera are integral to current understanding of their contributions.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
She researched/archived/digitized content inaccessible for decades. She interviewed Marsha & Sylvia’s peers. She did this work without pay.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
A black trans woman’s work about a black trans woman was used to make a film by a credentialed white cis man aided by Netflix’s millions.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
Meanwhile Reina is borrowing money to pay rent as viewers around the world watch a film based on her unpaid & uncredited work. Not OK.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
France defended himself by posting his own statement saying that he was friends with Johnson and had been considering the project for a long time.
“Reina Gossett has suggested that I’ve stolen both the concept and footage for ‘The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson’ from her work, the experimental short narrative, ‘Happy Birthday, Marsha!,’” France writes. “Nothing in the film’s concept, research or execution came from anyone outside of this process.”
Hi Janet. Please see below. pic.twitter.com/sHjz9CvU7T— David France (@ByDavidFrance) October 7, 2017
Mock took issue with France’s phrasing that he “fully” supports Gossett and Wortzell’s film. She fired back that France should have given the project to a transgender woman of color.
“Fully support” is an action, not an intention/thought. Support looks like stepping aside, using your access/priv to produce Reina’s work. https://t.co/urZx6YkTtW— Janet Mock (@janetmock) October 7, 2017
— Mariah Cooper, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.
This is a part of our LGBT History Month special package. Check out sfgn.com/2017historymonth daily for new stories.