‘Descendant’ Doc to Chart Discovery of Clotilda – Last Slave Ship to US

Descendant documentary will premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Credit: Participant)

The new documentary Descendant brings together the descendants of slaves to reclaim the history of their African ancestors who arrived aboard Clotilda, the last-known slave ship to America.

The doc from Participant Media follows award-winning filmmaker Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths) as she returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama and documents the search and discovery of the ship.

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In a recent press release, Participant announced the film will debut at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival as part of the U.S. Documentary Competition in January.

“When I began researching this history, I quickly learned that the story of the Clotilda was not a ‘myth’ or a ‘legend’ as it was often referred to by white people, but an already present history, just one that was not told or accepted as the dominant ‘American’ narrative,” Margaret Brown said in a statement.

“I came to recognize that this rich and insistent connection to the past represented something quite meaningful well beyond Africatown and Mobile, something that touches on the experience of the Black community as a whole, and really on the whole nation’s understanding of itself,” she continued.

“Africatown” is an area of Mobile whose first inhabitants were slaves who arrived after the Civil War on a ship a wealthy white businessman secretly smuggled into the U.S. after the practice had been outlawed.

In Descendant, the descendants of enslaved Africans believed to be on the ship will be joined by a team of archaeologists and divers from the Smithsonian to uncover the history of their ancestors.

Descendant is produced by Kyle Martin, Essie Chambers, and Brown, and co-produced by Dr. Kern Jackson. Executive producers are Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann and Kate Hurwitz, as well as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee and Zarah Zolman for Two One Five Entertainment.

Last week, archaeologists studying the Clotilda found most of the ship is still in tact, with two-thirds of the vessel preserved in freshwater and mud near Mobile, USA Today reported. 

The documentary will premiere Jan. 22 at The Ray Theatre in Park City, UT.