Twenty-five years ago — and some 23 years after the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement she championed — Marsha P. Johnson was found floating, dead, in the Hudson River in New York City.
Authorities ruled her death a suicide, despite the objections and incredulity of those who knew her. But Johnson’s case was not forgotten, and the story of her life and death and the search for answers that came after are the subjects of an upcoming Netflix documentary about the activist remembered as the “mayor of Christopher Street.”
Co-written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker David France, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson follows Victoria Cruz, with N.Y.C.’s Anti-Violence Project, as she investigates Johnson’s case anew.
Premiering on Oct. 6, the film’s first trailer is exclusively premiered above.
With Johnson as a window, France’s documentary also takes a wider view, paying tribute to her place in LGBTQ history and inverting the typical true crime mode to highlight the enduring prevalence of violence against transgender people and the lack of justice for most victims.
In late 2012, prosecutors reopened the investigation into Johnson’s death, which was changed from suicide to “undetermined” in 2002, according to the New York Daily News.
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“Almost single-handedly, Marsha P. Johnson and her best friend, Sylvia Rivera, touched off a revolution in the way we talk about gender today,” France said after Netflix acquired the film earlier this year, according to Variety.
“Their names should be household words,” France said. “But Marsha’s life was cut tragically short and Sylvia died shortly thereafter, the victim of a broken heart.”
Johnson and Rivera participated in the 1969 Stonewall Riots — now widely thought of as the start of the present-day gay civil rights movement — and later founded STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries), which provided shelter for homeless LGBTQ people in New York in the ’70s.
“Getting to know their story through the investigation undertaken by Victoria Cruz, a seminal activist in her own right, has been one of the great honors of my career,” France said. “Now, with Netflix as our distribution partner, I am confident the legacy of these tremendous women will never be forgotten.”