Current Weather
The Spy FM

TIFF ’12: ‘The Central Park Five’ Revisits A Storm Of Fear

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
September 8, 2012

Do you remember the case of the Central Park jogger, from 1989? Do you know who was convicted, what the evidence was, what supposedly happened? Do you know how long they served, or whether and when they were released? Do you know what eventually became of their convictions?

While the case at the center of the new documentary The Central Park Five was heavily covered when five teenagers were convicted more than 20 years ago, there’s been considerably less attention paid to the fact that the convictions were vacated years later after DNA evidence pointed to someone else entirely, or to how the five boys were convicted in the first place.

The Central Park Five is directed by Sarah Burns, along with her father — some documentary guy named Ken Burns, whom you may have heard of — and his frequent collaborator David McMahon. It makes heavy use of archival footage, not just from news reports but especially from the videotaped confessions of the boys, which were just about the only evidence against them and which were obtained after many hours of interrogation.

While it’s critically important to the case, the footage of the confessions is largely there to continually remind the audience how young these guys were, just kids, scooped up and convicted and gone. Contemporary interviews reveal men who were changed forever by the experience of being locked up as teenagers, and as fortunate as it is that the man whose DNA actually matched what was found on the victim (as theirs did not) eventually stepped forward and confessed, it doesn’t change the fact that it remains a profoundly sad story that deeply scarred these guys who spent years in prison for something even the Manhattan district attorney eventually concluded they didn’t do.

It’s impossible not to watch this film and think of West Of Memphis, the feature I watched on Thursday. There are striking parallels: the atmosphere of fear surrounding the idea of angry, violent kids — here the “wilding” teenagers and there the Satanic cults — and especially the repeated assertions by both defendants and others that it’s not that hard to get teenagers to confess to things they may not have done, even if that’s not the intent, if you keep them locked up for long enough and you scare them enough.

It’s a troubling film, but it’s well done and thought-provoking. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center