Airs Tuesday, April 16th at 8:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1.
– New Documentary Tells the Untold Story of One of New York City’s Most
Horrific Crimes –
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE,
a new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, will air on Tuesday, April 16 from 8–10 p.m.
on WTVP-HD 47.1. The film tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem
who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.
Directed and produced by Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns, the film chronicles the Central
Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of the five teenagers whose lives were
upended by this miscarriage of justice.
On April 20, 1989, the body of a woman barely clinging to life was discovered in
Central Park. Within days, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey
Wise confessed to her rape and beating after many hours of aggressive interrogation at the hands
of seasoned homicide detectives. The police announced to a press hungry for sensational crime stories
that the young men had been part of a gang of teenagers who were out “wilding,” assaulting joggers
and bicyclists in Central Park that evening. The ensuing media frenzy was met with a public outcry
for justice. The young men were tried as adults and convicted of rape, despite inconsistent and
inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected
any of them to the victim. The five served their complete sentences, between 6 and 13 years, before
another man, serial rapist Matias Reyes, admitted to the crime, and DNA testing supported his
Set against the backdrop of a city beset by violence and facing deepening rifts
between races and classes, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE intertwines the stories of these
five young men, the victim, police officers and prosecutors, and Matias Reyes, unraveling the
forces behind the wrongful convictions. The film illuminates how law enforcement, social
institutions and media undermined the very rights of the individuals they were designed to
safeguard and protect.
“This is a radical departure for me as a filmmaker,” said Ken Burns. “Eschewing
narration, bringing in many new stylistic elements — I think the intensity of the circumstances,
and the political and tragic implications absolutely demanded that we implement an intensified
discussion. What I think adds to our story is the humanity of the five young men who are at its
center, especially because no one was willing to do that during the original media coverage and
“This case is a lens through which we can understand the ongoing fault-line of race
in America,” said Sarah Burns, who also wrote The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City
Wilding, (Knopf, 2011). “These young men were convicted long before the trial, by a city
blinded by fear and, equally, freighted by race. They were convicted because it was all too easy
for people to see them as violent criminals simply because of the color of their skin.”
“Ultimately THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE is about human dignity,” said David
McMahon. “It is about five young men who lose their youth but maintain their dignity in the face
of an horrific and unimaginable situation.”
In 2002, based upon Matias Reyes’s confession, a judge vacated the original
convictions of the Central Park Five. A year later, the men filed civil lawsuits against the City
of New York, and the police officers and prosecutors who had worked toward their conviction. That
lawsuit remains unresolved.
Among those interviewed in the film are: The Central Park Five and members of their
families; New York City Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins; journalists Jim Dwyer, Natalie Byfield
and LynNell Hancock; the Reverend Calvin Butts; and historian Craig Steven Wilder.
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE:
A film by Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns; edited by Michael Levine; cinematography by
Buddy Squires with Anthony Savini; original music by Doug Wamble. Funding for the film was provided
by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Better Angels Society
and Bobby and Polly Stein, and PBS.
Burns is also the director of such films as THE CIVIL WAR (1990), BASEBALL
(1994), JAZZ (2001), THE WAR (2007) THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA
(2009), and THE DUST BOWL (2012) among many others.
For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of
at (309) 495-0591 or firstname.lastname@example.org