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Trans Filmmaker Says The Creator Of Netflix's Marsha P. Johnson Doc Stole Her Work

The director, David France, denied the allegations in a Facebook post.

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Over the weekend, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson premiered on Netflix. The documentary attempts to shed new light on the still-unsolved murder of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson.

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Netflix / Via

On Saturday, trans filmmaker and activist Reina Gossett posted a personal message to Instagram accusing the director of the Netflix film, David France, of stealing her ideas and research on Johnson to create his film.

@reinaxgossett / Via

In the Instagram post, Gossett alleged that France used her personal grant application video and archival research on Johnson to apply for his own grants and funding. She went on to state that France actively worked to have a video of a Sylvia Rivera speech, posted by Gossett, taken off Vimeo.

"This week while I'm borrowing money to pay rent, david france is releasing his multimillion dollar netflix deal on marsha p johnson," Gossett wrote. "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."

“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 continued in her Instagram message.

Gossett's accusations spread quickly after activist and author Janet Mock shared her original post via Twitter, adding, “Filmmaker David France released a Netflix doc Friday about Marsha P. Johnson. It is based on Reina Gossett’s work.”

@janetmock / Via Twitter: @janetmock

Mock also shared background info on Gossett's work and a link to donate directly to Happy Birthday, Marsha, a fictional film written and directed by Gossett and Sasha Wortzel, which is currently in post-production.


David France personally responded to Mock's tweet, stating that he first began researching Johnson's life in 1992 (the year Johnson was killed) as a reporter for the Village Voice. France claimed that he did in fact reach out to Gossett, well into his work, concerned that they could be "duplicating efforts."

"I stole nothing, and paid all artist collaborators. Reina thinks her work is in my film, but when she sees it she will know," he wrote in another tweet.

Representatives from Netflix declined to comment on Gossett's accusations or France's response.


On Sunday, France followed up his initial response with a Facebook post in which he stated, "Nothing in the film’s concept, research or execution came from anyone outside of this process or our immediate team."

David France / Via Facebook: ByDavidFrance

"It seemed there was room in the landscape for both films with very different stories, methods and approaches," France wrote. He shared his statement to the film's website as well.

France concluded his statement by announcing that he has connected Gossett, and her codirector Sasha Wortzel, with his own funder and looks forward to "her beautiful film."

"Reina is a black trans woman who reintroduced our generation to ourselves by uncovering and recentering trans women of color revolutionaries," Mock said of Gossett in an Instagram post, published on Sunday.

janetmock / Via

"Today, this black trans woman’s work about a black trans woman was used to make a film helmed by a credentialed white cis man aided by Netflix’s millions," Mock wrote.

The trailer for Gossett's own film, Happy Birthday, Marsha!, is available to watch below.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Gossett for comment.