A meticulous account of a monumental miscarriage of justice from doc veteran Ken Burns.
DIRECTED BY KEN BURNS, SARAH BURNS, AND DAVID MCMAHON
Revisiting New York’s infamous 1989 case of The Central Park Jogger—which saw five black and Latino teens tried and sentenced for a savage rape they didn’t commit—veteran documentarian Ken Burns teams with daughter Sarah Burns and David McMahon to present a meticulous chronology of a heinous miscarriage of justice.
The Central Park Five begins by establishing the racially charged context against which the case played out: a New York City in which a widening gap between rich and poor, and an epidemic of crack-related crime, made young minority males the objects of public paranoia. Drawing on interviews with pundits, politicians, and the titular quintet, as well as a wealth of fascinating archival materials—including video of the boys’ own coerced confessions—the doc goes on to detail the manner in which both the police and the press rushed to judgment, exhibiting a disconcerting continuity with the legacy of Jim Crow.
After each serving between six and 13 years in prison, the Five had their convictions vacated in 2002, when a serial felon, supported by DNA evidence, claimed sole responsibility for the crime. Inevitably, media coverage of their exoneration was dwarfed by the frenzy that greeted the initial accusations. But this restrained, richly informative effort from Burns and his collaborators is a worthy bid to redress that imbalance.