Directed by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon
Written by: Ken Burns, David McMahon, and Sarah Burns
Starring: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson and Kharey Wise
On the night of April 21, 1989, the life of a female jogger running through Central Park and the lives of five teenage boys were changed forever. Raped and brutally beaten, the white female jogger was rushed to a hospital while five teenagers – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Kharey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana – were rounded up by police, interrogated, and wrongfully accused of committing the crime. Years later, the true perpetrator stepped forward, but whether freedom from blame could erase the lost youths of these now grown men, is a question that the Burns and David McMahon raise provocatively and emotionally in their documentary, The Central Park Five.
With an impressive collection of interviews, sound bites, photos, and video footage from multiple interrogations, The Central Park Five draws from Sarah Burns’ book of the same title with present day interviews of the five men who were once splashed across the media as criminals. While the compelling nature of the jogger case dips into issues of racial prejudice and the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, the documentary also paints a fascinating portrait of what New York was like in the eighties.
While the famous New York jogger case is compelling enough for a large part of the documentary, The Central Park Five doesn’t necessarily offer greater depth in its investigation or creative visual representation of the incident. Instead, the documentary chooses to gather personal recollections and reflections of the five innocent men, as well as comments from lawyers, journalists, and historians as they look back on the incident as an example of grave injustice.
Deeply emotional, but not necessarily juicy in thought-provoking material or discussions, The Central Park Five is a dark reflection of racial prejudice and the shortcomings of the criminal justice system.