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The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
IMDB rating:
David France
Karla Jay as Herself
Jacques Garon as Himself (archive footage)
Jimmy Camicia as Himself (archive footage)
Chelsea Goodwin as Herself
Matt Foreman as Himself
Victoria Cruz as Herself
Pat Bumgardner as Herself (archive footage)
Marsha P. Johnson as Herself (archive footage)
Frances Baugh as Herself
Sylvia Rivera as Herself (archive footage)
Michael Baden as Himself
Storyline: This documentary uses never-before-seen footage and rediscovered interviews in a search for the truth behind the mysterious 1992 death of black transgender activist and Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson.
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Too much, detracts
Spoiler I was feeling this doc until about halfway through. The story is enough, but the exploitative, awkward closeups of Sylvia are too much. Maybe help?? It's not foreshadowing, foreshadowing isn't so blatant. It's exploitative. It's a heavy subject I couldn't invest in further after that scene. 5 stars for effort.
A triangular shaped metal sign on a pole near where Marsha Johnson's body was found is titled Queer Spaces and explains who she was and how she died. This sign says a lot about this film--spaces. So many spaces exist where we learn nothing about Marsha's life or spaces where files about her case have gone missing, spaces where we get a glimpse of a person's life in her 20's and then only a glimpse again when she is in much older (true of Sylvia, Victoria, and many others).

The compelling aspect of this documentary is the character study of the unflappable Victoria in her investigation and Sylvia Riviera, who hits the bottom and comes back to be a great activist. Both are more interesting than Marsha herself--at least what we learn of Marsha in this film. The scenes where Victoria shows us photos of herself when she was young on stage and Sylvia getting a job at a church are wonderful.

One big space is the lack of resources put into investigating the violence against trans-gendered people--Victoria's boss notes this toward the end. The spaces are the questions always left unanswered when someone dies without reason.

Basically, the movie's title is misleading. It's not really about Marsha, though she is a part of the larger story. It's about being trans-gendered in New York and how this has changed and not changed in the last 50 years.
Forgive the director
This film is about the dismissive attitude of the police and prosecutors to the large number of murders of trans individuals. I learned a lot about the early transgender scene in New York from the 1960s forward, how their lives developed or ended in tragedies of drug overdoses, suicides and murders. At times I had difficulty understanding why we were tracing a particular investigative avenue, but in the end the various threads came together.

The death took place 25 years ago with little forensic evidence and to resolve the mystery it now requires a candid death bed confession.

I appreciate how the internal investigator carried herself through the film by not calling attention to her person and to her personal struggles.

Definitely a must see for those interested in the GBLTYQ's history in New Yok.
Better editing may have made this more watchable
10/13/17. A somewhat scattered documentary about the life and death of a transgender person named Marsha P. Johnson in NYC. Not sure if this really gets down to the allegations that s/he was murdered or the motives as to why anyone who do her in. It's a murder mystery that remains a mystery.
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