A few weeks ago we learned of plans to boycott the upcoming feature “Stonewall,” in light of the film’s erasure of people of color and the decision to cast a white Midwestern gay man as hero and instigator of the riots that sparked the modern gay movement.
One outcome of the controversy, besides the memes and parodies, is increased exposure to other, potentially more accurate films on the Stonewall Riots. The upcoming short “Happy Birthday, Marsha” tells the story from the perspectives of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color that historians credit with having started the riots.
Named for the fact that the riots took place on Johnson’s birthday, the plot follows a loose account of events that day:
“It’s a hot summer day in June, 1969. Marsha throws herself a birthday party and dreams of performing at a club in town, but no one shows up. Sylvia, Marsha’s best friend, distraught from an unsuccessful introduction between her lover and her family, gets so stoned she forgets about the party. Marsha, Sylvia, and friends eventually meet at the Stonewall Inn to celebrate Marsha’s birth. When the police arrive to raid the bar, Marsha and Sylvia are among the first to fight back.”
The short is co-written and directed by media artist Sasha Wortzel and trans black filmmaker Reina Garrett, who drew from relationships and interviews with those close to Johnson and Rivera to write the script. Trans actress Mya Taylor of this year’s Sundance hit “Tangerine” stars as Johnson.
Last summer the filmmakers raised over $25,000 on Kickstarter for the project, with production wrapping just last month. Find a first look at film stills above and below, along with the filmmakers’ original video pitch.
The movie is set for release in early 2016 and apparently donations are still being accepted for post production. You can donate here: www.happybirthdaymarsha.com/donate