David McMahon

The Central Park Five

Editor’s note: The Central Park Five begins a limited roll-out today, so here is a re-run of our Cannes Film Festival review, originally published on May 27, 2012. The Cannes official selection usually includes a couple of interesting documentaries to cleanse the pallet of all the high-art and fiction, and this feature-length portrait of the infamous New York rape case certainly offered something more for those film fans who like to get their factual kicks, from director/producer trio Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon. For those whose who are not familiar with the film’s story, The Central Park Five case chronicles the 1989 rape of a white female jogger, who was discovered badly beaten and barely alive in Central Park. Five black and Latino youths from Harlem, just 14 to 16 years old, were subsequently taken in for questioning, and under coercion and pressurized circumstances confessed separately (or implicated one another) to their involvement in the beating and rape. Their confessions were contradictory, and certain details of the evidence didn’t corroborate their guilt, but the five were charged and sent to prison regardless, serving between 6 and 13 years for a crime they maintained never to have committed.

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The Central Park Five Trailer

The form and aesthetic of Ken Burns’ documentary work has become so well-known and so well-defined at this point that there are probably people out there working in the audiovisual arts who know how to use the “Ken Burns effect,” but have no idea where the term came from. From the breakthrough doc, Brooklyn Bridge, that launched his career, to his big documentary series that defined it, like The Civil War and Baseball, Burns has continuously proven himself to be an icon of the documentary filmmaking game. So when a new trailer for one of his movies comes out, you pretty much know what to expect. The only real questions are going to be, “What’s this one about? What new subject is he going to be poring over archival documents to research?” This time around Burns has made a film (alongside co-directors Sarah Burns and David McMahon) called The Central Park Five, which details the conviction and incarceration of five teenagers who were wrongly accused of committing a rape in Central Park back in 1989.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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