Race and Wrongful Conviction Take Center Stage in Netflix’s New Central Park Five Miniseries
“Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five. They are Korey, Antron, Raymond, Yusef, Kevin. They are millions of young people of color who are blamed, judged and accused on sight.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Netflix have announced a release date for their four-part limited series depicting the famous Central Park Five case. When They See Us will debut on the streaming site May 31. A teaser trailer was released earlier this month.
The release’s timing is notable because 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the case, when five young black men were wrongly convicted of a brutal rape that took place in Manhattan’s famous park in the spring of 1989.
The title of the new drama series was also significant for director DuVernay. It pointedly embraces “the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker,” explained the filmmaker. “Our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories.”
“Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five. They are Korey, Antron, Raymond, Yusef, Kevin. They are millions of young people of color who are blamed, judged and accused on sight. May 31. A film in four parts about who they really are. WHEN THEY SEE US,” tweeted DuVernay.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise were freed in 2002 after more than a decade behind bars when DNA evidence proved they were not responsible for the attack on Trisha Meili.
It is no wonder the new series’ title wants to reverse the identification with that moniker. When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case and how the true story gripped the country, but it will be told from the perspective of the five men.
The new drama miniseries will center on the five teenagers from Harlem and will span 25 years, beginning in the spring of 1989 when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident and through their 2002 exoneration and 2014 settlement reached with the city of New York.
The miniseries boasts an acclaimed cast that includes Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez and Asante Blackk.
“In 1989 five black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time,” said DuVernay in a recent statement. “In 2019 our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories.”
“In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system,” she continued. “We wanted to reflect this perspective in our title, embracing the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker.”
DuVernay created, co-wrote and directed When They See Us. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films, and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions executive produced the film.
This is DuVernay’s second project at Netflix after 2016’s Oscar-nominated documentary feature 13th, which focused on the criminal justice system, private prisons and the mass incarceration of black men in America.
Indeed, it is telling that this new miniseries is still timely in our culture, thirty years after the incident it focuses on.