In a new documentary, the life and murder cold case of trans icon and activist Marsha P. Johnson’s is opened again, 25 years after her death. David France’s (“How to Survive a Plague”) latest project, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” tells the story of Johnson’s life with archived footage and interviews as current allies investigate if Johnson chose to end her life- or if someone murdered her.
Johnson was a transwoman and LGBTQIA+ rights activist whose rhetorical answer to everything- “pay it no mind”- was literally her middle name. Living in 1960s New York City, she was often harassed for presenting as female, along with struggling with bouts of homelessness and no permanent job. She, along with friend and fellow activist, Sylvia Rivera, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to help others who weren’t accepted by society. According to OutHistory, she is often credited with throwing the first stone (or shoe, or shotglass) at police as they raided Greenwich gay bar, The Stonewall Inn. She became a prominent figure in the fight for trans and queer rights before her death in 1992, when she was found July 6, 1992, floating in the Hudson River. Police ruled the death a suicide, but most in the LGBTQIA+ community believe she was murdered.
Written by France and Mark Blane (“Kevin Can Wait”), the documentary features interviews from friends and Rivera, while Victoria Cruz fights for justice for Johnson. Interspersed between current sleuthing on her cold case are stories of Johnson’s activism during and after the Stonewall riots, widely regarded as the start of the LGBTQIA+ community’s push for equal rights. Told in a way that both honors Johnson while trying to uncover what, or who, really caused her death, the documentary is shaping up to be a must-see LGBTQIA+ film of 2017.
“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” has already drawn the notice of the film industry and LGBTQIA+ community. The documentary was nominated for a Jury Award at Tribeca Film Festival, and won the L.A. Outfest Freedom Award and Outfest Special Programming Award.
“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” premieres Oct. 6 on Netflix. Watch the official trailer below.