Review: Central Park Five

Award-Winning filmmaker Ken Burns, accompanied by daughter Sarah Burns and son-in-law David McMahon, have each brilliantly produced, written and directed the documentary The Central Park Five. The documentary tells the story of five black and Latino teenagers, ranging from ages 14 to 16, who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.

The film offers the devastatingly raw and authentic accounts of these innocent Harlem-raised boys (Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam) whose lives forever changed for the worse, due to the total ruinous mismanagement of delivering justice.

This documentary was beyond heartbreaking. It will literary crush your soul - at least it did mine. Burns does an impeccable job at building up unbearable frustration, heart throbbing pain, and overwhelming grief for the five innocent boys. How does he whip up these series of pulsating emotions? Through the use of powerful interviews of The Central Park Five and their family members, journalists Jim Dwyer, Natalie Byfield and LynNell Hancock, New York City Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, historian Craig Steven Wilder and Reverend Calvin Butts.

Every single account, specifically from Santana’s father and Richardson’s sister, establishes profound sympathy and deeply rooted anger against the deplorable conduct of police officers, homicide detectives, and prosecutors, who had carelessly worked on their conviction. The dreadful images, video clips, and recordings of Mathias Reyes disturbingly confessing to being the one who committed the crime, all contribute to create a masterful account of a traumatic event.

Additionally, seamless editing by Michael Levine and the hauntingly original music by Doug Wamble, greatly factored into creating a powerfully strong depiction. The incredible cinematography by Buddy Squires and Anthony Savini, which ranged from perfectly shot camera angles (i.e. zooming into the fragile faces of the Central Park Five and their heart-broken family members) to the various lighting techniques used, all vividly captured unfiltered emotions.

Central Park Five is so completely gut wrenching because you see how police officers, homicide detectives, social institutions and biased media, horrendously undermined the rights of harmless individuals whose lives were tarnished because of the shocking inaccuracies of professionals. The documentary excels in providing horrifying details regarding the coercion that took place.

One cannot help but be utterly disturbed by the way that, during hours and hours of grueling interrogation, law enforcement essentially force fed these five kids a story regarding the rape, promising them that if they would re-tell the story they would be free from further interrogation by homicide detectives. Naïve and desperate to get back to their home life, the kids agreed and from there you will see waves upon waves of total chaos.

The documentary does a great job of leaving audience members bewildered as to how the Central Park Five could possibly be convicted when DNA evidence fails to match the five kids in addition to inconsistent confessions and not a single eyewitness account.

Words cannot begin to explain how happy I am that the Central Park Five have finally been given a platform to reveal the truth about the tragic misfortune of their severely inaccurate convictions. Despite the fact that they will never be able to gain the years back that they have unjustly lost, having their story told is one step in the right direction.

I can only hope that some day the City of New York, the police officers and the prosecutors will somehow find a way to compensate them for their unimaginable mistake. I came out of the theater scarred for life, questioning the sanctity of humanity. This is a documentary I highly recommend everyone watch when it comes out to a theater near you. You are guaranteed to leave the theater changed.

It will open your eyes to the injustices we face. It will open your eyes to the racial prejudices that ran rampant during the time. It will make you realize just how powerful people's minds are - powerful enough that they become so completely set in their beliefs that they are willing to go to great lengths to deny proven facts in order to satisfy their own inaccurate truths.





Berenice Famili's picture
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