Central Park Five: Provocative Ken Burns Documentary

Ken Burns’ new, relevant documentary, “The Central Park Five,” centers on a provocative and inflammatory case,  It critically examines the 1989 New York case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. After spending between 6 to 13 years in prison, another serial rapist confessed to the crime.

Estimable director Ken Burns collaborated on the docu with his daughter, Sarah Burns, who wrote a book about the case last year, and her husband, David McMahon, who serves as the film's producer.

The docu opens in Los Angeles on November 30, 2012 exclusively at the Landmark’s Nuart Theatre.  It will also be released in other major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Chicago  throughout the year

The basic facts: On April 19, 1989, around 9:30pm, the body of a woman named Trisha Meili, barely clinging to life was discovered in Central Park. A white investment banker, age 28, Trish was jogging in the Park, when she was attacked, beaten, raped, and left comatose. Trisha eventuallt recovered, but she has no clear memory of the violent attack.

Within days, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam confess to her rape and beating after many hours of aggressive interrogations at the hands of homicide detectives.

The police responded to a press, which seemed hungry for sensational crime stories that the young men had been part of a gang of teenagers who were assaulting joggers and bicyclists in Central Park that evening. New York Mayor Ed Koch called it the “crime of the century” and the ensuing media frenzy was met with a public outcry for justice.

As a result, the young men were tried as adults and convicted of rape, despite inconsistent and inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected any of them to the victim.

The five, four black and one Hispanic, ranging in age between 14 and 16, and residents of Harlem, confessed to the crimes on videotape. As a result, they spent between 6 to 13 years in prison before a shocking confession from a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, and DNA evidence proved their innocence.

The docu's raises several important questions. Why did the qunitet of minority youngsters confessed to a crime they did not commit? What are the circumenstance under which the real rapist came forward?

It turns out that none of the legal authorities, professionals, and journalists, did their jobs responsibly and in good faith.

Set against a backdrop of New York City as a decaying city, beset by violence and racial tension, “The Central Park Five” tells the story of how five lives were upended by the rush to judgment by police, sensationalist media and, ultimately, devastating miscarriage of justice.

About Ken Burns
Ken Burns’ brilliant career has spanned over 30 years. Since his Academy Award-nominated film BROOKLYN BRIDGE, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most critically acclaimed, historical documentaries ever made. Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, cinematographer, music director and executive producer for the landmark television series, THE CIVIL WAR. The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody Award, and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others. Some of Burns’ other films include, THE DUST BOWL (airing on PBS in November 2012), PROHIBITION, THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA, THE WAR, JAZZ, LEWIS AND CLARK: THE JOURNEY OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY, and BASEBALL. Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.