The Central Park Five

2012

The Central Park Five (2012)

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In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it "the crime of the century." But the truth about what really happened didn't become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. With THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, this story of injustice finally gets the telling it deserves. Based on Sarah Burns' best-selling book and co-directed by her husband David McMahon and father, the beloved doc filmmaker Ken Burns, this incendiary film tells the riveting tale of innocent young men scapegoated for a heinous crime, and serves as a mirror for our times. (c) IFC Films

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Critic Reviews for The Central Park Five

All Critics (73) | Top Critics (30)

The Central Park Five dissects the political and social tension that turned an already shocking series of events into one of the most racially charged moments in New York City history.

Nov 28, 2018 | Full Review…

It's a vivid and gripping documentary (although, at two hours, somewhat longer than it needs to be), a grave indictment of a city and a system at the breaking point.

Apr 17, 2013 | Full Review…

Expect your blood pressure to rise during The Central Park Five.

Dec 24, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The doc is rife with smart or wrenching or shameful moments. The fresh interviews with the accused, now men, are invaluable.

Dec 21, 2012 | Full Review…

As grim a portrait of the criminal justice system as can be imagined.

Dec 14, 2012 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

How could this second crime have occurred? The film asks that question but only partly answers it, and in the process it raises an even more troubling one.

Dec 14, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Central Park Five

As an in depth look into the heinous behavior of the New York City police department at the time of the case of the Central Park Five, this film digs deep into the motivations for these horrible choices to coerce, and the repercussions for five teenaged boys. Any film about false imprisonment is a tear jerker and fills you with compassion and anger. The film is quick to point out that the prison system incarcerates those they see as doing wrong, but does not remember them, or console them, for their false convictions, instead letting them go and shrugging as if to say "Oops." Ken Burns is always insightful and happy to show the cultural and ethno-political leanings of every event he covers. In this way we get the feel for the time period, the racial tensions between the police and racial minorities, and the fervor and rioting that took place. Still, it was a huge case that took the nation by storm, but once they were exonerated, no one cared, and that's what really makes this documentary stand out. Not only does this tell a story, but shows that no one cared about the ending.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

In typical Ken Burns fashion, we have a magnificently laid out documentary that is not only the story of five innocent teenagers but the history of a City and its rough and tumble period during the eighties. Excellent.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

½

The story of the five teenagers who were picked up in Central Park, charged with rape, and convicted based on suspect confessions, then freed after serving years in jail when DNA evidence identified the real rapist. A frightening reminder that whenever there's a horrible crime, society demands that someone must pay, and you don't want to be the one in the wrong place at the wrong time. NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE DURING AN INVESTIGATION WITHOUT A LAWYER PRESENT.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

"The Central Park Five" is a heartbreaking and powerful documentary about five teenagers, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam who were falsely convicted in the rape and assault of Trisha Meili in Central Park on April 19, 1989. As District Attorney Robert Morgenthau puts it, if only they had known then what they later knew when the youths were exonerated. But here is the rub. The correct evidence was there, if only they had wanted to look for it. Instead, there was a rush to judgment by the police in coercing their confessions and later in the press, which the documentary painstakingly details with a thoroughly credible timeline of events. Later, you can see how their lives were adversely affected, as Richardson's sister points out that they are as much victims as Meili. Whereas it is safe to say that New York City has changed dramatically over the decades, it is not quite as "The Central Park Five" alleges, barely glancing over the changes in the police department, along with perceptions that go beyond just those concerning race. For example, Meili felt comfortable enough to jog in the park after dark, as Central Park has always been less a sacred space as Koch testifies(It's neat that he allows to be interviewed here, considering his past intemperate comments. It would have been nice to have gotten other officials on the record to see how some of them sleep at night.), than a commons for all of the city's people to enjoy, even as the documentary via the tabloids of the day would say otherwise.(Not to be facetious but there are two ways I can tell a neighborhood is safe: joggers and dog walkers.) By the way, the only thing stopping New York State getting the death penalty at the time was Mario Cuomo's courageous annual veto.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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