Victoria Film Festival 2013 Review: The Central Park Five
Editor’s Notes: 2013 marks the 19th Annual Victoria Film Festival which takes place between February 1-10. This is my first year in attendance after catching the festival bug in 2012. VFF offers a variety of cinema from all corners of the World.
The Central Park Five is a heart breaking introspective of late 1980s fear media combining forces with bloodthirsty detectives and irresponsible prosecutors from New York. Five boys were convicted of assaulting and raping a woman in Central Park on April 19, 1989. The Central Park Five consists of: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr and Korey Wise.
The film opens up with a raw voiceover of a man confessing the crime. The man gets into graphic detail while the film shows the scene of the crime. The moonlight shots along with leafless trees and shadows sets an ominous tone. The images burn into your brain and paint a grotesque picture that leaves a mark long after viewing the film.
The Central Park Five is a heart breaking introspective of late 1980s fear media combining forces with bloodthirsty detectives and irresponsible prosecutors from New York.
The late 1980s/early 1990s
were flooded with racial tension. Rap music was the cause of gang violence; muggings and assaults became a way of life in New York. “New York is the capital of racial violence.” Al Sharpton
The filmmakers take the audience back in time through use of stock news footage, period appropriate hip-hop and photos of The Central Park Five in their youth. This allows the audience time to reflect on those times. It’s a subtle transition taking the audience from present day to 1989. Once the era is established the film introduces the premise.
The boys admitted to running through Central Park causing mischief with approximately 25 other boys of the same ages, 14-16. Rocks were thrown at cars; a homeless man was beaten among other harmful crimes. As events escalated the police apprehended Kevin and Raymond, the other boys a few days later.
Each takes turns recounting the intimidating events. The stories are enraging as their civil rights went out the window. The boys were pitted against each other and after 24 hours of interrogation they gave in and fabricated confessions on video tape, the only evidence against them in their trials.
The high profile case built careers of many detectives and prosecutors. The entire world was against these boys. Donald Trump fueled the hate machine by paying for a full-page ad in the New York Times to “Bring Back the Death Penalty.” Other headlines read, “Terror in Central Park” and “The Wolf Pack’s Prey.”
The path from arrests all the way to conviction is sickening. The public wanted justice in any form. Lack of evidence was disregarded. The irresponsible handling of justice is daunting in the wrong hands. The Central Park Five served between seven to thirteen years behind bars. Let that sink in for a moment. Five boys were forced to grow up in prison.
The filmmakers ask the audience to look within, to question the headlines seen in the papers. The general public believed everything they were fed by the media. Demonstrations during the trial divided an entire nation. It’s easy for the weak to go with the flow without stopping to question,”Why?”
The path from arrests all the way to conviction is sickening. The public wanted justice in any form.
Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon take a careful, factual approach. The narrative moves along quickly, making the 119-minute runtime a fast-paced viewing. The film has protagonists to root for, vicious villains and everything in between. The crafting of the film is remarkable.
The Central Park Five should be applauded for their bravery. Their stories are fascinating and harrowing. While the film is spectacular, a majority of the audience may (and should) feel a great deal of guilt. Makes you wonder how often this kind of tragic event happens.