Thursday, December 1, 2016

Movie Review: "The Central Park Five" (2012)

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Movie"The Central Park Five"
Director: Ken Burns
Year: 2012
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

A group of five black and Latino teenagers are falsely accused and convicted of gang raping a white female jogger in Central Park in New York in 1989. 

The story of the Central Park Five is enough to make even the strongest person pissed as hell. In the late 80's, five male teenagers of black and Latino descent were arrested for the brutal, savage rape and attack of a jogger in Central Park. After this happened and the men were convicted, the story became a highly discussed and followed case, and lies, accusations, and mudslinging began as quickly as the crime was announced. This prompted national sensationalism on the part of the media, including rampant racism and a clamoring for justice and indictments that weren't even the truth. Each of the men accused spent between 5 and 15 years in jail for their convictions before a serial rapist confessed to the crime in 2002. Doesn't this entire thing make your stomach churn? Watching "The Central Park Five" documentary made us mad, made us want to cry, and made us shake our heads at the way "justice" is sometimes served in our fair country. It's hard to review a documentary of such a politically charged nature, but we will try as best we can. Though some of the men (at the time, teenagers) and many others were in the park that night and were probably not being as civil as they should have been, this does not mean the "five" beat and raped the woman they were accused of beating and raping. Sometimes without proper counsel, sometimes without parents present, these teens were pressured into giving confessions and statements, verbal or videotaped, and were put in prison for crimes they did not commit. Ken Burns examines, through a series of interviews with those involved closely with the case, including those involved directly, Anton McCray (in voice only), Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, and what led to their arrests, their trials, their verdicts, and their eventual vacated convictions.

"The Central Park Five" provides a stark snapshot of what it's (sometimes) like to be a minority and accused of a crime. These men have since received monetary reparations for their time served as the result of suing the city and state of New York, but does money buy back years of a prison sentence serve for being not guilty? Ken Burns did a great job in this documentary, though it is quite long and definitely feels it. It's hard not to shake your head at our judicial system after watching a movie like this. It's instances like these where we feel ashamed we live in a country that could convict innocent people and sentence them to prison all because of who they are, who they are associated with, and the color of their skin. It also shows the dangers of the 'court of public opinion' and how it can sway people's thoughts and perceptions of a case they might not otherwise know anything about. It also forces us to reexamine what the term "innocent until proven guilty" really means, especially in 2016 in a world where we are so caught up in the 24/7 news cycle in which people are placed on trial in the media before they ever set foot in a courtroom. If this happened in the late 80's, it has certainly only gotten worse now, and watching this film showed us how unreliable our justice system can be, especially when swayed by the panderdome of the media (especially the Nancy Grace's of the world).

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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