Dir: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Featuring: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise
The Film: The Central Park Five is as disturbing and as sad of a documentary you are likely to find, because it shows that being in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong people or being considered a troubled youth can haunt you for life. The story here is of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, 5 youths who were accused of a brutal rape in Central Park against a young woman. There was no real evidence to say these five were anywhere near the woman, but race dictated that they must have done it. Yes they were in the park and on a closer examination of the evidence as shown, it seems very unlikely they were anywhere near the woman.
The detectives and such were likely under pressure to make arrests and get convictions, and a teen gang of youths seemed as good as any. Did they even try to find if there were any other possible suspects? Not really, even though there was evidence to support the rape was committed by a serial rapist that was active during the time. The youths were coerced into admitting guilt, because they thought if the cops heard what they wanted to hear they could go home. These scenes were video taped, and will make anyone pretty sick to their stomachs to see how manipulative the cops can be and how ignorant these boys were with what was happening.
This documentary is shown from the boys (now men’s) perspective, they tell us in their own words what happened. Their faces and their eyes tell a very sad and deeply disturbing story, you just need to look at them to see it. In a time when crime was high in New York, the pressure was there to find culprits, even if they weren’t guilty. This fact at the time wasn’t apparent to the boys, and as they tell their stories you can feel the pain as this fact has now become apparent. It isn’t easy to sit and listen to these stories, knowing (and it is blatantly obvious) that these boys really were merely scapegoats. The media turned groups against them, while their own families and community stood by them.
The way in which this story is presented to us, with current interviews, archival footage and newspaper/news show footage, paints a very compelling story. The fact that we don’t hear from certain people involved, almost speaks volumes in it self. The crime committed against the jogger is horrendous and the woman deserved to have the criminal captured and sentenced appropriately. The eventual rapist was found, but not before these five men served time for a crime they very likely did not do. The jogger did not recall the events, and her trauma can’t even be imagined, and the toll was taken on her as well as everyone involved.
Much like the Paradise Lost trilogy, The Central Park Five will leave you doubting the very justice system that is in place to protect the innocent and convict the guilty. The story here may seen familiar, it has been played out on Law & Order before, and it isn’t a story that is unique. Unfortunately the innocent get wrongly convicted and the guilty remain free. There is someone to blame, but the picture isn’t so black and white. This film really lays into that fact, and we can all be much more aware these days.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is presented in 16:9 widescreen, audio is Dolby 2.0
The video and audio here is really good, it is exceptional for this type of documentary that does feature archival stuff. It does come off very well, impressed with this transfer.
Sadly there are no bonus features, a commentary would have been fantastic though.
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.