David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a deeply compelling look at the murder of a transgender legend, known as “the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement” has been acquired by Netflix, for release later this year. The powerful, haunting film is France’s follow-up to his Academy Award(R) nominated How to Survive a Plague.
When Marsha P. Johnson, the beloved, self-described “street queen” of NYC’s gay ghetto, was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the NYPD refused to investigate. Instead, they chalked it up to suicide, a widely dismissed conclusion, and left the mystery to fester for decades. Having played a pivotal role in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, Marsha and fellow icon Sylvia Rivera went on to form the world’s first trans-rights organization, STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) in 1970. And despite their many challenges over the years – harassment, homelessness, alcoholism – Marsha and Sylvia ignited a powerful and lasting civil rights movement for gender nonconforming people.
Now, 25 years after her untimely death, at a time of unprecedented visibility for, and escalating violence against, the transgender community, veteran crime-victim advocate Victoria Cruz has taken it upon herself to reexamine what happened to Marsha and measure the challenges that still face the community. The film follows as this intrepid champion pursues leads, mobilizes officials, and raises troubling new questions about a famous cold case. Along the way she burnishes the political legacy of a celebrated historical figure.
“Almost single-handedly, Marsha P. Johnson and her best friend Sylvia Rivera touched off a revolution in the way we talk about gender today,” said David France. “Their names should be household words. But Marsha’s life was cut tragically short and Sylvia died shortly thereafter, the victim of a broken heart. 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. Now, with Netflix as our distribution partner, I am confident the legacy of these tremendous women will never be forgotten.”
“We are honored to bring much deserved recognition to the dynamic life of Marsha P Johnson,” said Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming Lisa Nishimura. “Her effervescent spirit and pioneering leadership of the LGBT movement is illuminated with an eloquent force by director David France and is a true testament to the power of documentary films.”