Happy Birthday, Marsha! tells the story of legendary best friends, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and the bold everyday decisions they made that helped spark the 1969 Stonewall riots.
When Marsha and Sylvia, self-proclaimed “street queens” – homeless, Black & Latina trans women – ignite the Stonewall Rebellion, they change LGBT politics forever. It’s a hot summer day in June, 1969. Marsha throws a party, but no one shows up. Meanwhile, Sylvia gets stoned and forgets the party after unsuccessfully introducing her lover to her family. Throughout the difficult day, the friends struggle with harassment and alienation before converging at the Stonewall Inn to finally celebrate Marsha’s birth. Unbeknownst to them, the NYPD has plans to raid the bar that night.Happy Birthday, Marsha! is the story of two brave best friends and the everyday decisions they made that changed the course of history.
We truly believe how we tell the stories of our heroes matters, so we are drawing upon our community to make this film because we have an opportunity to make a movie written, directed and produced by people living Sylvia & Marsha’s legacy through our own work. It’s been 45 years since the Stonewall rebellion yet the leading role that street queens, trans women of color and gender non-conforming people had during the riots hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. By making Happy Birthday, Marsha! we are seeking to change that
Reina Gossett (Director) is a black trans woman who has been archiving and spotlighting the lives of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson throughout her work including membership director of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and as an artist and writer. While writing the script Reina drew from her relationships and interviews with those who knew Sylvia and Marsha best. Reina’s writing has been featured in Barnard College’s The Scholar & Feminist Online, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment & The Prison Industrial Complex, Post Post Script Press and Randy Magazine. Reina blogs at reinagossett.com
Sasha Wortzel (Director) is a filmmaker, media artist, and educator working in video, installation, sound, and performance. Her work explores marginalized collective and personal histories in relation to space, gender, and desire. She has recently presented work at the Berlin International Film Festival, Outfest LA, Newfest, Tribeca Interactive, Leslie Lohman Museum, A.I.R. Gallery, and the Guggenheim Lab. She is a recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg/Big Arts award.
Reina and Sasha have been working in collaboration for 4 years now. Originally collaborating on short films for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, they then began working full time on their film, “Happy Birthday, Marsha.” Their collaboration was recognized by filmmaker Ira Sachs and was awarded a fellowship with Sach’s Queer/Art/Mentorship program for the 2012-2013 calendar year. In Queer/Art/Mentorship Gossett and Wortzel were guided by Kimberly Reed and Ira Sachs to write the script for “Happy Birthday, Marsha.”