The story of the Central Park Five has had everyone enraged over the weekend, but why? On May 31, 2019, Netflix released a four-part miniseries titled “When They See Us.” The series was written, produced and directed by Ava DuVernay.
30 years ago, on April 19, 1989, a white jogger was raped in New York City and five black and Latino teens, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam, were falsely accused of the crime. They were between the ages of 14 and 16.
The five young men were coerced into admitting to committing the crime, despite the fact that there were no DNA evidence or eyewitness.
‘When They See Us’ tells the young men’s true story and what they went through. Instead of naming the film “Central Park Five” DuVernay changed the title of the series in order to “redefine the scope of the story.”
Ava DuVernay received dozens of tweets a day from people asking her to make a movie from their life story. It wasn’t until she received a tweet from Raymond Santana, one of the five that were arrested, that caught her attention. The tweet reads “@AVAETC what’s your next film gonna be on? #centralparkfive #cp5 centralpark5 maybe? wishfulthinking #fingerscrossed”. “I was a teenager on the West Coast when they were teenagers on the East Coast. … It meant a lot to be asked by them,” Ava says.
In an interview on the Breakfast Club, Ava speaks out about why she decided to do the film. She has done a lot of research on the case and contacted everyone she felt was necessary to get as much information to produce the film. She spent the past four years researching and finally, in 2019 she was able to release such an amazing story. Ava says on the Breakfast Club “it really allows you to show all the levers and the nooks and crannies of the criminal justice system to people that don’t know and for people
that take it for granted.”
Though DuVernay explores the larger criminal justice system ‘When They See Us’ additionally zooms in to demonstrate how incarceration cracks singular families. “When you incarcerate one person, you’re incarcerating their family, their future, their community,” DuVernay says. “In the large numbers that we’re incarcerating people, you’re incarcerating a generation of people,” she concludes.
Ava DuVernay claims that this film was one of the hardest things she has e
ver done. It was difficult, but working on previous films that were challenging helped prepare her for a film like ‘When They See Us’.
‘When They See Us’ is now out on Netflix.