Treasure is a feature documentary about nineteen year old trans woman Shelly 'Treasure' Hilliard whose murder involved police coercion, Jim Crow drug laws, the criminalization of sex work and transphobia. It is about a young Detroit trans community activated by her death, and her family, who are suing for justice.
In the fall of 2011, Shelly 'Treasure' Hilliard's corpse was discovered in pieces around the city of Detroit. Because Treasure was a trans teen who sometimes did sex work, the Detroit Police Department assumed that her murderers, who they apprehended, committed a hate crime. But during their trial, it was discovered that the suburban police officers who Treasure encountered at a motel where she lived and did sex work, revealed she was an informant to the drug dealers who murdered her. Threatened with being jailed in a mens' prison, she agreed to entrap her pot dealer. During his arrest, suburban police revealed Treasure cooperated with them, a total breech of protocol, presumably because Treasure's identity as a trans woman was more criminal that his as a drug dealer. Though her murder wasn't prosecuted as a hate crime, the brutality inflicted on her corpse indicates a desire to obliterate. But 'Treasure' is not a film that fetishizes the murder of another trans person. 'Treasure' is about the community that Treasure belonged to, a diverse and affirming activist community. Anchored by The Ruth Ellis Center, Treasure and her friends received support, counseling and were trained to lead social justice workshops. 'Treasure' is also about Shelly's family, who are filing a civil suit against the suburban police department who set in motion her murder.