TIFF 2012 Film Review: The Central Park Five

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Fragoso on 12 Sep 2012

On the night of April 19th 1989, a white female investment banker was jogging in Central Park when suddenly she was struck with a weapon, dragged down a forest path and then brutally sexually assaulted. What subsequently followed was the prosecution of five teenage African American males convicted of rape in the first degree.

The infamous case, which resulted in the unjustly incarceration of all five boys, is meticulously chronicled by documentarians Ken and Sara Burns in The Central Park Five.

In attempt to clarify what transpired over the years, from 1989 to 2001 and the final conclusion of the case, this scintillating documentary interviews each of the five innocent boys (now adults), journalists that reported on the story, and psychologists to explain the orchestrated travesty constructed by the New York City police force.

The Central Park Five is, at its core, a devastating indictment of not only the judicial system, but also the general mentalities of contemporary society. For as long as civilisation has existed there have been a myriad of individuals that are treated unfairly, without equality or basic natural rights. While the central park five case of 1989 appears to be painted in black and white, the implications and ramifications it had on New York City were astronomical.

The primal issue succeeded the disgusting act of rape: we had an African American community being treated with hostility and brutality because of the color of their skin, as opposed to the unlawful crimes.

Contrary to the monumental exploits the documentary uncovers, the gaffs in Ken and Sara Burns’ picture are minute. Though not to the severity of this year’s Bully, the film misses the perspectives of the other side of the coin. No interviews with the prosecuting attorneys or the crooked police are conducted and the film would have benefited from some voices of their story, and to have trimmed down the excessive ending a little bit.

Discursive as The Central Park Five is, the documentary touches on polarising subjects with enough intrigue and in tellect to hold the viewers interest; there’s no grand epiphany or blinding revelation, just cogent storytelling framing a provocative and devastating incident in American history.


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