synopsis

Missing People is a nonfiction mystery about a enigmatic woman investigating her brother's long unsolved murder, while obsessively collecting and researching the violent work and life of an outsider artist from New Orleans.  As these parallel narratives intertwine, shocking events unfold.

Martina Batan is the director of a prominent New York gallery. An eccentric, enigmatic Manhattanite, she is haunted by the brutal murder of her 14 year-old brother in 1978. Martina obsessively collects the work of Roy Ferdinand, a controversial outsider artist from New Orleans who died in 2004. His colorful, violent and sexually graphic art chronicles African-American cultural identity of pre-Katrina New Orleans. With the murder capital of 1990's America as a backdrop, Ferdinand drew what he saw and knew: people struggling for dignity and survival in a volatile world of crime, drugs, poverty and violence. Believing Ferdinand is a great American artist, collecting his work has become Martina's focus. But Martina is still sorting out the underlying reasons she has reordered her life's priorities. 

The film follows Martina on a fact-finding mission to New Orleans to meet people who knew Roy, and to revisit the neighborhoods, which Ferdinand documented in tender detail: the colorful but run-down houses, distinctive, dilapidated landscape, and the vibrant characters of a now, near-vanished world. Martina meets Roy's sisters, Faye and Michele, who reveal that while Ferdinand led a hard-scrapple life - at turns homeless, involved in drugs and gangs - he also made up his biography and drew from second-hand sources, not personal experience. Although the sisters are distrustful of Martina's intentions, through unlikely symmetries, their shared experiences draw them closer. As Martina grapples with her own dark past, she learns how Roy's sisters came to peace with their brother's turbulent life. 

‚ÄčA chronic insomniac since the traumatic night her brother was murdered, Martina hires a private detective to reopen the decades-old unsolved case. The film interweaves layered narratives with archives of a 1990's New Orleans ravaged well before Katrina, and a dangerous 1970's New York, the gritty landscape of Martina's childhood. Following Martina's investigations - into Ferdinand's forgotten world and into her own painful past - Martina's journey to make peace with her brother's murder unfolds in a shocking and unexpected way.