In June, Focus Features will release Oscar-nominated director Julie Cohen’s “Every Body,” a documentary about three intersex individuals.
It is estimated that up to 1.7% of the world’s population is born with intersex traits, according to the U.N.’s Human Rights Office. The term intersex is used to describe people born with physical sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions of male or female. These traits may be evident at birth, emerge at puberty, or become apparent later in life. 

Produced in partnership with NBC News Studios, “Every Body” investigates the lives of actor and screenwriter River Gallo (they/them), political consultant Alicia Roth Weigel (she/they), and Ph.D. student Sean Saifa Wall (he/him). The docu examines how all three subjects moved from childhoods marked by shame, secrecy, and non-consensual surgeries to thriving adulthoods after each set aside medical advice to keep their bodies a secret and instead came out as their authentic selves. 

Gallo, Weigel and Wall are now leaders in a fast-growing global movement advocating for a greater understanding of the intersex community and an end to unnecessary surgeries. The doc features footage from the NBC News archives outlining past medical abuse to help explain the modern-day treatment of intersex people. 

“As an intersex person who was – like Saifa, Alicia, and River – kept in the dark about my own body for far too long. I am thrilled that this film will shine a spotlight on their stories, and the story of our entire community,” says author Shana Knizhnik, a consulting producer on “Every Body.” “In a time when false conceptions of ‘biology’ are being weaponized like never before, this film shows once and for all that life is so much more than XX and XY, and that is a beautiful thing.”

In 2019 Cohen received an Academy Award nomination for “RBG,” which she co-directed with Betsy West. Cohen and West’s most recent doc collaborations include “Julia” (2021) and “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” (2022). Cohen’s solo directed projects include “The Sturgeon Queens” and “Ndiphilela Ukucula: I Live to Sing.” Before starting her own production company, Better Than Fiction, Cohen was a producer for “Dateline NBC.”

“I’m so excited for people to see Saifa, Alicia, and River’s mind-blowing and empowering life stories,” says Cohen. “To partner with Focus Features and my longtime friends at NBC News Studios to bring this movie to the world is both an honor and a thrill.”

And for her part, Molly O’Brien, NBC News Studios head of documentary, praised “long-time colleague Julie Cohen, whose ease and dexterity as a director, and ability to always find the love, truly set her films apart.”

Cohen directed “Every Body” alongside producers Tommy Nguyen and Molly O’Brien and consulting producer Knizhnik. The film was executive produced by Elizabeth Fischer, Liz Cole, Noah Oppenheim, and Andy Berg. Focus will release the film in the U.S., with Universal Pictures International handling international distribution. 

“Our collective hope is that ‘Every Body’ furthers understanding around what it can mean to be intersex, a significant part of the population far too long excluded from the conversation,” says Kiska Higgs, Focus Features president of production and acquisitions.

Focus Features and NBC News Studios previously collaborated on Dawn Porter’s 2020 doc “The Way I See It,” about Pete Souza, White House photographer during the Obama administration.