Most people with any amount of knowledge of the Central Park 5 case have gotten their information from one of two places, the Sarah and Ken Burns documentary, ‘The Central Park 5’ or the Ava Duvernay Netflix series, ‘When They See Us.’
Both of these films are problematic, as they both have a limited point of view that they bring to the screen. With the Burns film, you will realize that no one from the police force or from the prosecution was interviewed for the film. Not one opposing view in the entire film. If that seems a bit suspect there’s more. Sarah Burns, herself worked for the law firm that represented The Central Park 5 in their civil suit against New York City. You know… The law firm that helped them to win a $42 million dollar settlement. Think she had an incentive to get them seen in a positive light? Ken Burns certainty seemed to think that it was up to him to help them to get paid as he stated as much in an interview with Variety magazine soon after the film was released. Go figure.
And there is the most well-known of the films. The Netflix Series “When They See Us.’ This piece, while not nearly a documentary seems to be the one that most people have seen and taken their notes from. It is full of things that either did not happen or are twisted around so much so that the world’s greatest contortionist would be amazed. But what would you expect from a director who is quite happy to admit that her series was “biased” and “slanted” and also pleased to announce that her goal was to try change how people saw the five and any other black men in the future. No wonder she cast boys who had the sweet and innocent look instead of characters more fitting.