Trans filmmaker claims Marsha P. Johnson doc director stole her work

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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.”

Janet Mock posted Gossett’s statement on Twitter and slammed France for taking the opportunity away from a transgender woman.

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.”

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.

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