‘The Central Park Five’ will make your blood boil
‘The Central Park Five,’ directed by Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns, is documentary about the five teens wrongly convicted of raping and beating the ‘Central Park Jogger.’ It will make your blood boil, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in this review
Seattle Times movie critic
“The Central Park Five,” a documentary written and directed by Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns. 119 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas.
The thoughtful, haunting documentary “The Central Park Five” begins with a confession; one that, had it been heard years earlier, would have changed many lives. In 2001, serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to New York State prison officials that he alone had raped and beaten the “Central Park Jogger” in a 1989 case that captured the headlines — not the five teenagers who were convicted of the crime and incarcerated for many years. Reyes’ DNA was a match (none of the young men’s had been), and in 2002 the five convictions were overturned.
Like the “Paradise Lost” documentaries about the West Memphis Three (a case that resembles this in many aspects) , “Central Park Five” will get your blood boiling. Four of the five wrongly accused men (a fifth is present in voice only), now in their late 30s, face the cameras and tell how police hounded them to make false confessions (often without parents or lawyers present, though the accused were only aged 14 to 16); how the complete lack of physical evidence against them was disregarded, as was the fact that their made-up stories contradicted each other; how, through this process, they were forever changed — and how that same media that focused voraciously on their guilt paid far less attention, years later, to their innocence.
Filmmakers Ken Burns (“Jazz,” “The Civil War”), David McMahon and Sarah Burns (Ken’s daughter) carefully trace the story, creating along the way a memorable portrait of late-’80s New York: rife with crime, racism and simmering anger. It’s a tale of injustice that continues to this day: The accused have filed a civil suit against the city of New York, which is ongoing. Kevin Richardson, one of the five, has what lingers as the film’s last word. “I lost my youth,” he says quietly.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org