Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to the Sundance award-winning documentary “Descendant,” by filmmaker Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths,” “Be Here to Love Me: Townes Van Zandt,” “The Great Invisible”). Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will present the Participant feature alongside Netflix later this year.
The film follows members of Africatown, a small community in Alabama, as they share their personal stories and community history as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States. The ship arrived in America 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense. It was promptly burned and its existence denied, but “after a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story” in the film.
“I have been humbled and honored to spend four years with the residents of Africatown as they seek justice and reconciliation for what happened in 1860, and what is still happening today,” Brown said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “I am excited that through Netflix and Higher Ground’s global reach, audiences around the world will learn this powerful history.”
Kyle Martin, Essie Chambers and Brown produced the project. Executive producers are Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann; Kate Hurwitz of Cinetic Media; Two One Five Entertainment’s Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee and Zarah Zohlman.
John Sloss and Jason Ishikawa of Cinetic Media; Liesl Copland, Rob Williams, Jeannine Tang and Stefanie Holmes of Participant negotiated the deal.
The film, a Night Tide production, in association with Two One Five Entertainment and directed by Margaret Brown, premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. Earlier Friday, the feature won the U.S. documentary special jury award for creative vision.
Filmmaker Peter Nicks presented the special jury award on behalf of his fellow U.S. documentary competition jury includes Garrett Bradley and Joan Churchill.
“We would like to recognize a film which evokes, un-surfaces and reveals, in a profound direction forward, a character-driven film in pursuit of historical reconciliation,” Nicks said.
With news of the acquisition, “Descandant” marks the tenth film or series that Netflix and Participant have collaborated on, including “American Factory” with Higher Ground. The film is dedicated to the late Diane Weyermann, Chief Content Officer at Participant, which will be incorporating the film into its ongoing impact work dedicated to advancing both social and racial justice.