Martha’s Vineyard v. DeSantis, which is executive produced by Trevor Noah, is set to premiere next month on MSNBC and Peacock. The doc, produced and directed by the Oscar-nominated duo David Heilbroner and Kate Davis (The Newburgh Sting, Traffic Stop), takes a look at the incident in September 2022 when the DeSantis administration rounded up 49 Venezuelan asylum seekers in San Antonio, Texas, and flew them by private plane to Massachusetts. The migrants have said that they were promised shelter, work, food and money in the form of a card once they arrived, but that turned out not to be true.
The official description: “Told in a personal, real-time narrative, the documentary interweaves the stories of four young migrant cousins fighting for justice, led by their attorneys and local Texas sheriff who are seeking to hold DeSantis and his cronies accountable. With graphic detail, Martha’s Vineyard v. DeSantis brings to light this cynical rightwing ploy of using migrants as pawns to score political points, while also helping to humanize countless people willing to risk life and limb in hopes of earning a small piece of ‘The American Dream.’”
MSNBC Films has partnered with TIME Studios, Noah’s Day Zero Productions, Sugar23, Mainstay and Q-Ball Productions on the documentary, which will premiere on MSNBC on Oct. 8 and stream on Peacock on Oct. 9.
“For many, Gov. DeSantis’ surprise airdrop of 49 migrants onto the famous island of Martha’s Vineyard was met with bewilderment, along with international headlines questioning his motives and the ethics of using Venezuelans as pawns,” said filmmakers Heilbroner and Davis. “For us, as filmmakers, who are also long-time residents of the Island, this right-wing tactic, intended to expose the hypocrisy of the left, was based on a false stereotype of the Vineyard as being 100 percent white and rich. It was a story which begged for a deeper telling.”
Over the course of making the documentary, “We came to know heart-wrenching tales of migrants who were lured into the Florida governor’s trap — an age-old tactic which no one saw coming,” Heilbroner and Davis added. “We followed the fight for justice in real time, with a stream of shocking revelations. Our hope is that Martha’s Vineyard v. DeSantis helps bring to life the human fallout from corrupt government officials who may manipulate tax payers, disadvantaged populations and a voting public if their actions go unchecked.”
The project is executive produced by MSNBC’s Rashida Jones and Amanda Spain along with TIME Studios’ Loren Hammonds, Alexa Conway and Elizabeth Waller, Day Zero’s Noah and Sanaz Yamin, Sugar23’s Michael Sugar, Ashley Zalta and David Hillman and Mainstay Entertainment’s Norman Aladjem and Derek Van Pelt.
“Like many I saw this story unfold on the news,” said Spain, vp, longform acquisitions at MSNBC Films. “When I watched this film, I was shocked by the realization of how little we understood about what had happened to these migrants. David and Kate’s film reveals the deeper story behind the sensational headline. A story I know our audience will be shocked to hear.”
Added Hammonds, Time Studios’ head of documentary: “In today’s media landscape, audiences crave transparency and accountability, and the stories we choose to tell as trusted documentarians have become even more important. We’re so proud to work with these amazing filmmakers, MSNBC Films and our production partners to shed further light on this story and to give voice to those who have been impacted.”
Martha’s Vineyard v. DeSantis will have a special screening at Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday, followed by a panel discussion with the directors and documentary subjects featured in the film, including attorney Rachel Self, Lawyers for Civil Rights executive director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Vineyard shelter director Lisa Belcastro and Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes.
Watch an exclusive clip below.