The Central Park Five (PBS)
Distinctly different in style and tone from Ken Burns’ stately historical documentaries, The Central Park Five has outrage simmering below its surface, and rightly so. It’s a needed continuation of the exoneration of five black and Latino teenagers who spent more than a dozen years in prison for a notorious 1989 rape before the real assailant confessed. Using archival video, photographs and fresh, first-person interviews, Burns, his daughter, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon demonstrate how the accused five, the youngest only 13, were relentlessly pressured into confession by some of New York’s finest interrogators even as the city’s TV stations, tabloid press and public officials one-upped each other with wild accusations. The filmmakers bring the racially charged fear and anger enveloping the city in the 1980s back to palpable, paranoid life. The documentary doesn’t pretend that the five were angelic kids, but it also makes it clear that’s no prerequisite for injustice. For telling a harrowing, instructive story of fear, racism and mob mentality, and for exposing the media madness that fueled the investigation, The Central Park Five receives a Peabody Award.
Executive Producer: Ken Burns. Producers: David McMahon, Sarah Burns, Ken Burns. Directors: Ken Burns, David McMahon, Sarah Burns. Writers: Sarah Burns, David McMahon, Ken Burns. Cinematographers: Buddy Squires, Anthony Savini. Editor: Michael Levine. Music Composer: Doug Wamble.
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