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With: Angela Black, Calvin O. Butts III, Natalie Byfield, David Dinkins, Jim Dwyer, Ronald Gold, LynNell Hancock, Michael Joseph, Saul Kassin, Ed Koch, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Sr., Raymond Santana, Michael Warren, Craig Steven Wilder, Kharey Wise
Written by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Directed by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 119
Date: 05/24/2012

The Central Park Five (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jogging the Memory

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Central Park Five seems to be shaping up into one of the top award contenders, but only because of the marquee value of its co-director Ken Burns, who is better known for his monumental TV documentaries like The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994) and Jazz (2001).

The subject matter here is very similar to another high-profile documentary, West of Memphis, wherein the filmmakers have done the research into a heinous case of wrongful arrest. The benefit of The Central Park Five is that West of Memphis is actually the fourth documentary (following the Paradise Lost trilogy) about the same case. The Central Park Five will be new to many viewers.

It tells the story about how five black youths -- Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam -- were charged with the brutal rape of a female jogger in New York City's Central Park in 1989. They happened to be in the park wreaking youthful havoc during the time, and that was good enough for police to wrangle confessions, after many hours, out of the scared, exhausted teens. The movie interviews them today, home from prison and cleared of all charges, as well as showing footage, photos, and all the typical documentary methods that Burns has helped to establish.

What's perhaps so striking about this movie is how open the interviewees seem to be with Burns (and/or his two credited co-directors, Burns' daughter Sarah and her husband David McMahon). They all come across as gentle souls, kind, good-hearted, and genuine -- not at all like they might come across if you only saw their mug shots in the paper. They are most definitely wounded, and in one striking sequence, Burns merely shows his subjects, one after another, and compels us to look at their eyes. Each man holds a world of hurt behind his eyes, and it's there to see.

So, yes The Central Park Five is a very good movie, and it tells a story that's good to know. Maybe it will help in future situations of this kind.
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