Marsha P. Johnson is an icon in queer history - a transgender Woman of Colour, drag queen, and sex worker, Johnson was a mother of a house for homeless trans children in New York City, as well as being one of the instigators in the 1969 Stonewall riots.
Netflix has recently released a new documentary on the influential activist, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, which has been receiving impressive coverage since its worldwide release.
However, a filmmaker - who is a trans Woman of Colour - has now come forward, stating that director David France used her research and work without credit to create his doco.
Reina Gossett shared the accusations via socal media, alleging that France "got inspired to make this film from a grant application video that [she and fellow filmmaker] Sasha Wortzel made and sent to Kalamazoo/Arcus Foundation social justice centre while he was visiting".
Gossett and Wortzel had been working on their film, Happy Birthday Marsha, since 2014 - and researching for many years before.
She also claims that France said to foundation members that he "should be the one to do this film", and consequently received a grant from Sundance and the Arcus Foundation, allegedly using Gossett's research and language about STAR (Johnson's activist group, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to attain the grant.
"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," explained Gossett. "So I feel so much rage and grief over all of this..."
Fellow trans activist Janet Mock, who recently visited Australia to speak at the Antidote Festival in Sydney, shared Gossett's claims on Twitter:
After Mock published these tweets, France responded to the allegations, denying that he stole Gossett and Wortzel's work, but acknowledging that he had made contact with them during the making of The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
Since this response, due to continuing backlash, France released an official statement on the film's official Facebook page.
"I found out about the existence of Gossett’s film years after I had started research for my film," he says. "I reached out to her to see about sharing resources, at which point she informed me she was working on a scripted short film about Marsha and Sylvia in the hours leading up to Stonewall, which is not at all the focus of my film. These stories seemed different enough to me that there was no cause for concern".
He continued: "As part of a sincere desire to see their film completed, I connected Gossett, her co-director Sasha Wortzel, and their producers with our funder. [...] By joining my voice to the campaign for Marsha’s justice, I hoped to amplify that call, not complicate it, and to bring whatever attention I could draw to this history and those who defend it. But I have complicated it nonetheless. I know that history-telling is not a zero sum equation. But funding and cultural power can be. It is wrong that our projects have not received equal attention. I re-double my commitment to bringing the attention and backing it needs and deserves, and hope that you will too."
You can read France's full statement below:
Netflix is yet to make a statement about the controversy at time of writing - this story will be updated if so.