Yusef Salaam, (far left) one of the Central Park Five, now lives in metro Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Director Ava DuVernay tackles story of the Central Park Five

Acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay will write and direct a five-part mini-series based on the Central Park Five case.

The dramatic series is scheduled to air in 2019 on Netflix, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In 1989, five African-American and Latino teens, ages 14 through 16,  were arrested and accused of viciously beating and raping a white 28-year old jogger  in Central Park.

Two of the men - Raymond Santana and Yuself Salaam -  now live in metro Atlanta. The others were Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson and Korey Wise. They all were later exonerated.

The case was racially explosive, even prompting New York businessman Donald Trump to jump into the fray by  taking out a full-page ad in several newspapers calling for reinstatement of the death penalty. The case terrified and divided the city.

In a television interview Trump talked about his hatred of the teens. “It’s more than anger, it’s hatred and I want society to hate them.”

It turns out , though, the teens were innocent.

In 2002, a convicted murderer and rapist confessed to the crime and DNA confirmed his part. By then, the men had already served several years in prison.


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According to the Innocence Project, the convictions of the teens raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations. 

The five later sued the city and won a $40 million judgement. 

 DuVernay also directed the Oscar-nominated “13th”, which examined the toll the war on drugs had on African Americans, unjust sentencing of blacks and mass incarcerations,  and the hit “Selma.”

"This is one of the most talked-about cases of our time, and Ava's passionate vision and masterful direction will bring the human stories behind the headlines to life in this series," said Cindy Holland, Netflix's vp original content in the Hollwood Reporter. "After powerfully reframing the public conversation about criminality and injustice in 13th, Ava now turns a new lens to a case that exposes deep flaws in our criminal justice system."

Each part will focus on the case and personal journey of the five men.

It won’t be the first time, the men have been the focus of a film project. In 2012, Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and  David McMahon released a documentary about the case.

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