Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix series looks at the dark side of our criminal justice system
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is bringing her talents to Netflix once again. After being nominated for an Academy Award for her Netflix documentary film 13th in 2017, DuVernay is creating a series about the Central Park Five. The five-part scripted series will tell the real-life story of five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman and nearly beating her to death when she was jogging in Central Park in 1989. The five young men were eventually released from prison and received a civil rights settlement of $41 million in 2014, but the injustice they faced is not something to be ignored and will be the focus of DuVernay’s project.
The media has been fixated by the Central Park jogger case since the events occurred nearly three decades ago. The attention was initially due to the severity of the assault of the white female jogger (revealed to be Trisha E. Meili), and later because after all five young men (who were black and Hispanic) had been serving time in prison, serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime and DNA proved he was the person responsible.
Despite this, some people — including the current president Donald Trump — still don’t view the five men as innocent, which shows just how necessary DuVernay’s series is.
The Central Park Five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise — have said that police coerced their confessions in 1989, and the case is an example of racial injustice, something DuVernay explored in her Netflix documentary 13th.
DuVernay released a statement about her new Central Park Five project, saying, “I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on 13th and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project with Cindy Holland and the team there.”
"The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the President of the United States."
DuVernay is a skilled storyteller in both documentaries, like 13th and This Is the Life, and scripted films, like Selma and Middle of Nowhere. For the Central Park Five limited series, DuVernay will go the scripted route, which makes sense since a documentary, The Central Park Five, already exists from Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon.
But just because DuVernay’s series will be scripted, doesn’t mean that it won’t touch on the structural problems that permeate our justice system.
The scripted miniseries is scheduled to hit Netflix in 2019, so use that time to read up on this still relevant moment in America’s history.