Netflix announced today that it has acquired worldwide rights to filmmaker Yance Ford’s powerful, poetic documentary “Strong Island,” which had its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, screened to great acclaim at both the Berlin and True/False film festivals, and will next be shown in New York City on Sunday, March 19, as a part of New Directors/New Films, presented by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
This fall, the film will launch globally on Netflix and in limited theatrical release.
“Strong Island” chronicles the arc of a family across history, geography and tragedy – from the racial segregation of the Jim Crow South to the promise of New York City; from the presumed safety of middle class suburbs, to the maelstrom of an unexpected, violent death. It is the story of the Ford family: Barbara Dunmore, William Ford and their three children and how their lives were shaped by the enduring shadow of race in America.
In April 1992, on Long Island NY, William Jr., the Ford’s eldest child, a black 24 year-old teacher, was killed by Mark Reilly, a white 19 year-old mechanic. Although Ford was unarmed, he became the prime suspect in his own murder. A deeply intimate and meditative film, “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.
“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. 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,” Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming Lisa Nishimura added. “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.”
A Yanceville Films and Louverture Films production, “Strong Island” was produced by Ford and Joslyn Barnes, and was co-produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen for Final Cut for Real. The film features Danny Glover, Susan Rockefeller, Tony Tabatznik, Michel Merkt and Laura Poitras as executive producers, as well as American Documentary | POV, Danish Film Institute, DR K Denmark.
No trailer yet, but, below, check out Sundance’s “Meet the Artist” video featuring Ford talking about the film, intercut with clips from the film: