Digital streaming giant Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to former PBS ‘POV’ producer Yance Ford’s cinematic memoir.
Strong Island (pictured), which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, traces the arc of a family across history, geography and tragedy while providing intimate insight into the tragedy of the filmmaker’s brother more than 20 years ago who, during an altercation with a young white mechanic, was lost to gun violence.
Produced by Yanceville Films and Louverture Films, the film tells the story of Ford’s brother, William Jr., an unarmed 24-year-old African-American teacher who was killed by Mark Reilly, a white 19-year-old mechanic, during a dispute over repairs in April 1992. The local prosecutor brought the case before a grand jury, composed of 23 white people, who chose not to indict Reilly for the crime.
“Strong Island asks what one can do when the grief of loss is entwined with historical injustice, and how one grapples with the complicity of silence, which can bind a family in an imitation of life, and a nation with a false sense of justice,” according to a release from Netflix.
The film, which also screened at the Berlin and True/False film festivals, will launch globally on Netflix and in limited theatrical release.
Ford and Joslyn Barnes serve as producers on the film alongside co-producer Signe Byrge Sørensen for Final Cut for Real. Executive producers include Danny Glover, Susan Rockefeller, Tony Tabatznik, Michel Merkt and Laura Poitras, as well as American Documentary | POV, Danish Film Institute, DR K Denmark.
“Because Netflix is a global platform, Strong Island will be seen by communities around the world who are dealing with the issues that are unpacked on screen,” said Ford in a statement. “It’s my hope that this film will offer some a way to make sense of their own experience, and others a new way of seeing. Nothing comes close to describing how astonishing it is for me, that the world will in some measure come to know my brother.”
“Strong Island further highlights the scope of what kinds of stories can be told through documentary filmmaking,” added Lisa Nishimura. VP of original documentary programming at Netflix. “Yance Ford’s intimate re-telling of his family’s history of love, violence, and loss is filtered through such a personal lens that each shot captures the complexity of the film’s many intersecting threads of race, sexuality, class, and gender; yet the explosiveness of each of these topics in our current cultural conversation is undeniably wide-ranging.”