TIFF Movie Review – The Central Park Five (2012)

The Central Park Five, 2012.

Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon. 

Starring Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Ed Koch, Jim Dwyer, and Calvin O. Butts III.

When a twenty-eight year old female jogger is physically assaulted and raped in New York City’s Central Park, five juvenile black males are convicted of the crime under questionable circumstances.

One cannot help but feel a sense of outrage whenever innocent people are convicted as no amount of money can restore the years they spent behind bars. It is tale of being at the wrong place at the wrong time which is made worse by the belief that lying is the best way to get out of trouble.

On April 19, 1989, twenty-five youths entered Central Park in New York City and proceeded to assault strangers; while these violent attacks were taking a place, Trisha Meili went jogging in the urban landmark only to be found four hours later raped and almost beaten to death. Law enforcement officials focused their attention on five juveniles who were implicated as being part of the group of hooligans: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. With a media circus erupting and public pressure being brought to bear, New York City Homicide Detectives psychologically wore their suspects down to the point that they were able to get video confessions.

Once the confessions were obtain all possible leads were discontinued despite there being no DNA evidence which could link the accused to the victim; to explain the glaring discrepancy legal and law enforcement authorities theorized that there was a six member who was yet to be caught. Also ignored by the justice system was the fact that all of the five confessions conflicted with each other in regards to what actually happened that night. Needless to say, McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise, and Salaam were convicted of the crime. It would not be until thirteen years later that the truth would come out from an unlikely source – the actual rapist who upon encountering Wise in prison felt a sense of guilt for having him convicted for a crime which he committed.

For those looking for the traditional multiple voice over narration and vast archival footage flare displayed in previous documentaries produced and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Ken Burns, The Central Park Five follows a more traditional path with talking heads dominating the proceedings. The only voice over comes from Antron McCray who declined, unlike Richardson, Santana, Wise, and Salaam, to have his face filmed. The shift in presentation has probably to do with the current nature of the subject matter which meant that the key players were still alive to be interviewed. With the lawsuit filed against them because of the wrongful convictions, it was not surprising to learn that the New York City District Attorney’s office and the police departments declined to participate in the project. It is a shame as the other perspective would have added a great deal to the story.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★

Trevor Hogg

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