Murders That Matter

How would you handle the trauma of losing a loved one? For Movita Johnson-Harrell, who couldn’t save her son, it’s now her life's mission to save others.

Woman speaking with microphone
Premiere Date
October 2, 2023
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects

Marco Williams

Marco Williams is a filmmaker and film educator, best known for Two Towns of Jasper, which won a Peabody Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. His directing credits include: The Undocumented (Independent Lens/PBS); Inside the New Black Panthers (National Geographic); Banished (Independent Lens/PBS); Freedom Summer (History Show more Channel); I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education (MTV); MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream (Discovery Times); Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities (PBS); The Pursuit of Happiness: With Arianna Huffington (PBS); Without a Pass (PBS); In Search of Our Fathers (Frontline/PBS); and From Harlem to Harvard (The Learning Channel). In addition to the Peabody, Williams’ awards include a Beacon, an Alfred I duPont, a Pan African Film Festival Outstanding Documentary Award, a Full Frame Documentary Festival Spectrum Award, and the National Association of Black Journalists First Place Salute to Excellence Award. Show less

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The Film

Set in Philadelphia, Murders that Matter follows African American, Muslim mother Movita Johnson-Harrell over four years as she transitions from victim of violent trauma into fierce advocate against it.

When her 18-year-old son Charles is murdered in 2011, Movita vows to make it her life’s mission to stop the devastation on both sides of the gun. She creates the Charles Foundation which gives herself a platform to speak out on gun violence in the local Black community. Her voice resonates within the community, and the positive reception to her activism encourages her to run for state representative. Her neophyte campaign, driven by passion for one issue—gun control and stopping the killing of Black and brown men—is not enough to topple the incumbent, and in 2016, she loses. 

Undeterred, she goes to work at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, but a year into the job, the Philadelphia Democratic Party leadership asks her to run in a special election for the state representative seat that she lost in 2016. This time Movita wins and becomes the first woman representative to wear a hijab in the Philadelphia State House. 

Then a shocking revelation unravels it all.