Whether this chapter of U.S. legal history is old news or a surprising revelation, I really hope that you will set your DVRs or even watch the broadcast live at
6:30pm EST on Wednesday, April 17th 9pm EST on Tuesday, April 16th.
A quick flashback to my thoughts after seeing this powerful documentary if you will…
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE is the first Ken Burns documentary I’ve ever seen and it was not what I expected at all. I’d heard all the praise over 6-hours docs about baseball and the Civil War, so I was little hesitant. I’m happy (if happy can even be used when talking about this case) that this particular film will be the first thing I think about when folks mention the acclaimed documentarian. I can’t forget to mention that Sarah Burns, Ken Burns’ daughter, co-directed the film with him. This important fact seemed to slip in the cracks when the film screened at Cannes and all anyone could talk about was how there were so few female directors in the lineup. It was absolutely fitting that Sarah introduced the film as it originated from her college thesis and book on the case, saying “I hope this makes you angry too.” I learned about the case literally from watching the doc and it was fantastically frightening and frustrating. In addition to unearthing a little more about U.S. history, the story stays with you due to the fact the directing team opted to let the five men accused speak for themselves instead of traditional objective narration. THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE serves as more of a reflection since the once incarcerated teens are now free adults, but it also is a reminder of how dangerous it is to be a man of color in this country. Yes, I did leave the theater angry but assured too that a new generation will learn this story and get angry too. Look out for the film which is coming to a PBS affiliate near you.
Since that screening at Telluride, I’ve been keeping an ear out for any updates. In February, the federal courts ruled the city of New York could not force Ken Burns and crew to hand over any footage in order to support their defense in the $50 million lawsuit filed by the “Five” men. God bless independent journalistic privilege! Between you and me, it’s pretty easy to understand why the Big Apple is so concerned about how they are portrayed.