David France's documentary on key figure in LGBT rights movement launches October 6
David France's new documentary on one of the leaders of the Stonewall Riots -- and the LGBT rights movement in general -- is set to reach a wide audience early this fall.
Netflix announced The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson will premiere on the streaming service October 6, and will open in movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles the same day.
France's film, which held its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last April, investigates the lingering mystery around the 1992 death of Johnson, originally ruled a suicide. Her body was found in the Hudson River off Manhattan, but many friends maintained she was either the victim of an accident or foul play.
The cause of her death remains an open question, but there is no dispute about Johnson's impact as an LGBT activist and pioneer in trans pride and visibility. She is identified as one of just two or three people who played an instrumental role leading the rebellion against police raids on LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in June 1969, the event that triggered the modern gay rights movement.
When the beloved, self-described 'street queen' of NY's gay ghetto was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the NYPD chalked it up as a suicide and refused to investigate.
With Sylvia Rivera, Johnson later founded STAR [Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries], the first trans rights group in the world. In the 1980s she became an AIDS activist with ACT UP.
France, an Oscar nominee for his film How to Survive a Plague, partly builds the film around Victoria Cruz, a friend of Johnson who tries to get to the bottom of how she died. The clip below gives an indication of the kind of resistance Cruz faced from police investigators.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.