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Movie Review: The Central Park Five

Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 3 years and 11 months ago

3     0

I don’t think any of us NYers can remember in full detail where we were, or what we were doing during April, 1989. However, I’m sure we ALL remember one of the biggest, most intense cases to ever smear NYC as one of the most violent places in the country – dare I say world! Plastered all over every news outlet, as well as causing topic stirs among friends, family, co-workers etc, the horrible rape of the Central Park jogger swept just about everyone who knew anything about it – causing divide and mass confusion.

At the time jumping from middle school, into high school, I recall the case bouncing from one mouth to another, how a group of teens (my age) were involved, having been caught and that was it – gone like yesterday’s newspaper!

23 years later, the case comes back to life; however, this time in form of a well documented film. The Central Park Five heavily covers and/or exposes the other victims – the five (then) teenagers wrongfully convicted. Tracing their stories from point A to Z, directors Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon utilize heavy, archival footage, from news segments – especially videotaped confessions of the teens, served as the only evidence against them and which were obtained after many grueling hours of interrogation.

The upside of this centralizes on the lack of attention paid by the city and its citizens on the fact that the convictions were made based on flawed, unquestioned actions, considering DNA evidence aimed at an outcome presenting something totally different.

While critical to the case, footage of confessions largely defines for the audience how young these guys were, just a bunch of kids, at the wrong place, wrong time, wrangled up, charged and convicted. Contemporary interviews unveil men who were changed forever by the experience of being locked up as teenagers, and as fortunate as it is that the man whose DNA matched what was identified on the victim eventually stepped forward and confessed, it doesn't change the reality that it remains a sad story that deeply scars the guys who spent years in prison for something even the Manhattan district attorney concluded they didn't do.

The same cringing feeling built up throughout the film as it did with HBO’s Paradise Lost series – now followed by a feature West of Memphis. With uncanny resemblance pertaining to fear surrounding thoughts of rambunctious, violent kids — here the "wilding, wolf-pack” and with Paradise the Satanic cults — and especially the repeated assertions by both defendants and others that it's not that hard to force teenagers to confess to things they may not have done.

The Central Park Five not only provides a gritty tale of harsh realities upon victims on opposite ends, but also served as a nostalgic experience while presenting brief history of NYC’s ways, social standards and tour of what it was like to live in The Big Apple during the late 80s/90s.

Although the film presents a lot of unpleasantness, making it one of the most soul gauging documentaries ever watched, it’s well paced, done and beyond though-provoking.

Grade: A



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