Press Release

August 10 2023

Philly-based Murders That Matter Follows a Woman’s Transformation From Grieving Mother to Politically Charged Activist Against Gun Violence


New York, N.Y. — August 10, 2023— POV, America's longest running non-fiction series continues its 36th season with Peabody Award-winning director/producer Marco Williams’ personal film, Murders That Matter. The PBS alum documents five years in the life of Movita Johnson-Harrell, an African American Muslim mother in Philadelphia, as she transforms from a victim of violent trauma into a fierce advocate against gun violence in Black communities. Though her story is local, it nonetheless remains a siren call in the wake of escalating gun-related deaths that ultimately impact Black and other communities of color throughout the U.S.

A co-production with ITVS, Murders That Matter is scheduled to make its world premiere on Monday, October 2, 2023 at 10pmET/9C (check local listings) and will be available to stream until December 25, 2023 at, and the PBS App. In addition to standard closed captioning for the film, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

Led by his own family’s experience with gun violence in the same Philadelphia neighborhood where Murders That Matter takes place, director Marco Williams, who also is the film’s cinematographer, crafts an intimate portrait of a community in crisis centered on family, redemption, grief and determination to save others from that same fate. “This story is of immense importance to me,” said Willliams. “I know first-hand the pain and invisibility of murder in the African American community. Tragically, a story of violence in the family is probably not uncommon for many African American families.”

Murders That Matter examines how life is shaped through a narrative of violence and trauma. What if you experienced the murder of people you love—a father, a brother, a cousin, a son? How would you respond? Would you seek revenge? How would you manage the trauma? The questions posed by the film become the philosophical vehicle and prime motivators for Movita Johnson-Harrell’s radical transformation from grieving mother and victim to raising herself up on a platform where she takes an unyielding and outspoken stance to confront the conditions that perpetrate cycles of violence in African American communities. Movita’s journey takes her from the Philly streets, to the Philadelphia DA’s office, and to the political campaign trail. Along the way, Williams captures her strength and resilience as she speaks out against gun violence to aid in healing from personal as well as collective trauma.

Featuring an original score by multi GRAMMY Award winning jazz legend, composer and bandleader, Branford Marsalis, Murders That Matter is told in chapters similar to a music composition. This film builds upon previous collaborations by Williams and Marsalis who have joined forces on other films including the 2021 Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre (co-directed with Stanley Nelson). Williams and Marsalis were both nominated for Emmys. They also collaborated on the 1991 Cable Ace nominated fiction short, Without a Pass. Marsalis wrote the score and acted in the film.

"The trajectory of one woman’s life story and journey, brings into sharp relief the tragedy plaguing African American communities throughout the United States—the endemic of murders unspoken, but by a few,” remarked director Marco Williams. “Murders that Matter is a call to all, that there are many murders that matter in our country. I am excited and honored to return to POV with my latest documentary. POV is the premiere strand for documentaries. There isn’t a better home for the film.”

“POV is the home for untold stories, new perspectives and for filmmakers like Marco Williams who amplify voices from the most marginalized communities. We’re committed to sharing Movita Johnson-Harrell’s story, her personal trauma is undeniably human and sadly, too common, too underreported and often mischaracterized in the media. Her transformation from victim to trauma-informed policy advocate unfolds in this moving and beautifully crafted portrait. Murders that Matter is a compelling call to action and a timely addition to the POV family,” said Erika Dilday, Executive Director, American Documentary and Executive Producer, POV and America ReFramed.

Murders That Matter is an ITVS and American Documentary | POV co-production. Marco Williams is the director and producer. Music is by Branford Marsalis. The Executive Producers are Erika Dilday and Chris White for American Documentary | POV.


Murders That Matter

Director: Marco Williams

Cinematography: Marco Williams

Producer: Marco Williams

Executive Producers: Erika Dilday and Chris White for American Documentary | POV

Editor: Ken Schnieder

Composer: Branford Marsalis

Running time: 90 min

Countries: United States

Year: 2023


Download Murders That Matter photos here.

About the Filmmaker

Marco Williams, Director/Producer/Cinematographer, Murders that Matter

Marco Williams is an award-winning filmmaker. He has been nominated three times for the Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize. He has spent his entire film career exploring the question of injustice, worldwide. He is a filmmaker whose films unmask the complexities of the human condition. A reviewer of his films opined: “you make films about the stories we prefer to keep hidden.”

His credits include: A New Greenbook, (2022), Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre (2021), Crafting an Echo (2018), Lonnie Holley: The Truth of the Dirt (2017), Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2017), The Black Fives (2014), The Undocumented (2013), Inside the New Black Panthers (2009), Banished (2007), Freedom Summer (2006), I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education (2004), MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream (2003), Two Towns of Jasper (2002), Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities (1996), Declarations: The Spiritual Deficit and The American Dream (1993), In Search of Our Fathers (1992), From Harlem to Harvard (1982).

Williams’ films have screened at festivals worldwide, including, Sundance, Berlin, Hot Docs, Toronto, and numerous other festivals around the world. His films have been broadcast in the United States on PBS, History Channel, Nat Geo, and Discovery. Internationally they have screened on the BBC, The CBC, ABC, and more.

His film awards include Guggenheim Fellowship, a George Foster Peabody Award, the Beacon Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Silver Baton, the Pan African Film Festival Outstanding Documentary Award, the Full Frame Documentary Festival Spectrum Award, and the National Association of Black Journalists First Place Salute to Excellence Award, as well as an Emmy nominations for Tell Them We Are Rising and Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre.


About POV

Produced by American Documentary, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television. Since 1988, POV has presented films on PBS that capture the full spectrum of the human experience, with a long commitment to centering women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. The series is known for introducing generations of viewers to groundbreaking works like Tongues Untied, American Promise, Minding The Gap and Not Going Quietly, and innovative filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, Laura Poitras and Nanfu Wang. In 2018, POV Shorts launched as one of the first PBS series dedicated to bold and timely short-form documentaries. All POV programs are available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

POV goes “beyond the broadcast” to bring powerful nonfiction storytelling to viewers wherever they are. Free educational resources accompany every film and a community network of thousands of partners nationwide work with POV to spark dialogue around today’s most pressing issues. POV continues to explore the future of documentary through innovative productions with partners such as The New York Times and The National Film Board of Canada and on platforms including Snapchat and Instagram.

POV films and projects have won 46 Emmy® Awards, 27 George Foster Peabody Awards, 15 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards® and the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award. Learn more at and follow @povdocs on social media.

About American Documentary, Inc.

American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.

Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, the Open Society Foundations, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, Reva & David Logan Foundation, Park Foundation, and Perspective Fund. Additional funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the Chasing the Dream and Peril and Promise public media initiatives of The WNET Group, Chris and Nancy Plaut, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

About PBS

PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirm that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.