‘Descendant’ Doc About Slavery’s Legacy Picked Up by Netflix

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“Descendant,” the Participant feature documentary and Sundance Award winner about the legacy of slavery, has been acquired for worldwide rights by Netflix, the company announced on Friday. Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will present the film, alongside Netflix.

“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. “I am excited that through Netflix and Higher Ground’s global reach, audiences around the world will learn this powerful history.”

“Descendant” 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 slave ship to illegally transport human beings as cargo from Africa to America. The ship’s existence, a centuries-old open secret, is confirmed by a team of marine archeologists. The film explores implications of the Clotilda’s discovery for the descendants, who grapple with their heritage while claiming the power to shape their own destinies.

The film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for creative vision on Friday. “Descendant” is a Night Tide production, in association with Two One Five Entertainment and was directed by Margaret Brown. The film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.

Kyle Martin, Essie Chambers and Margaret Brown are the producers. The 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.

“Descendant” is the 10th 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. The company will be incorporating “Descendant” into its ongoing impact work dedicated to advancing both social and racial justice.

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