Netflix Nabs Yance Ford’s ‘Strong Island’; Sundance Doc Traces History Of A Murder


Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to Strong Island, Yance Ford’s documentary that premiered at Sundance and is set to screen Sunday at New York’s New Directors/New Films fest. The film will launch globally on Netflix and in limited theatrical release in the fall.

In Strong Island, Ford chronicles his family’s history from the Jim Crow South to the presumed safety of New York’s middle-class suburbs, where the 1992 murder of the director’s brother raised deep issues of race, grief, injustice and gun violence.

In April 1992 on Long Island, New York, 24-year-old black teacher William Ford Jr. was killed by Mark Reilly, a white 19-year-old mechanic. Although Ford was unarmed, he became the prime suspect in his own murder.

Netflix describes Ford’s film as “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.”

Says Ford: “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. 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.”

Said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP Original Documentary Programming: “Yance Ford’s intimate retelling 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.”

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.

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