It's a complicated story. But here are the essentials: Not long after the documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson became available on Netflix, its white gay director, David France (he received an Oscar nomination in 2013 for the doc How To Survive a Plague), was accused by Reina Gossett, a black trans filmmaker and researcher, of two things. One, being a beneficiary of white supremacy; and two, of directly stealing inpiration, ideas, and content from her own research of the doc's subject, Marsha P. Johnson, a black American gay rights activist who was on the front line of the Stonewall revolt and mysteriously died in 1992.
The first accusation, which France has accepted, is explained by Gossett in a Teen Vogue article posted on Oct 11. She claims that she and her filmmaking partner "applied for a grant to at least one of the same foundations that France, a white cisgender gay man, had applied to, but it was his film that got funding and not" theirs. Gossett, the black filmmaker, couldn't finish her documentary because of a lack of funding. She also points out that she's behind on her rent. Again, France feels that this grievance has substance. “White supremacy and transphobia create a barrier to entry for that community to tell their own stories,” France said to Jezebel.
However, the second charge, which isn't mentioned in the Teen Vogue post, but certainly on Gossett's Instagram account (France got the idea from her, used her language to get the grant, and "ripped off decades of [her] archival research"), he claims is unsubstantial. France emphatically states that he did not steal Gossett's inspiration, ideas, or research. Nor is his film like the one she planned.
Though the story is more complicated than this, I hope you get the picture.
TWIST has taken a position on the matter. The documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson screens on October 18 as a part of its 2017 festival. Normally, people would pay to watch this film; but for this screening, under these circumstances, they do not. It's free for all. How I read this is that the festival's organizers, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, have strongly agreed with the first charge (white privilege must be addressed/checked, and POCs must be given the opportunity to tell their stories) but not so strongly with the second (outright theft). If TDBC was certain France had stolen from a black artist, I doubt they would screen the film at all. Theft is theft.
TDBC, however, recommends, as a return for the free screening, that people send money to Reina Gossett's projects.