The director of 13th is taking on her second Netflix project depicting race, criminality and injustice in America
If you’ve seen 13th – the 2016 Netflix documentary about the racist prison systems that earned Ava DuVernay an Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature – you’ll know why the news of a miniseries focusing on the Central Park Five story has us rapt.
The Central Park Five case involved five black teenage boys, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, who were wrongfully convicted of the rape of a jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park in 1989. The boys were basically just hanging around the park, like teenagers do, when they were arrested and coerced by police into the confession of a crime they had nothing to do with – another disturbingly common case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’. Despite withdrawing their confessions almost immediately, Donald Trump – back then just a racist with a lot of money – demanded “justice”, and took out a full-page advertisement in four of New York’s major newspapers, advocating for the return of the death penalty. Trump said he wanted the criminals “to be afraid”. Horrifically, the boys were thrown in jail, not to be exonerated until 2014.
“I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on 13th and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project,” DuVernay said in a statement about the upcoming project. “The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn – from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the president of the United States.”
There’s set to be five episodes of the film, airing on Netflix in 2018, with each episode following their lives, from a Harlem upbringing to their wrongful conviction, of each of the five boys (now men). Cindy Howland, vice-president of original content for Netflix, said in a statement that DuVernay will treat “one of the most talked-about cases of our time” with a “passionate vision” and “masterful direction” that’ll land the series firmly in that Continue Watching segment of your Netflix account. Unless you watch the whole thing in one go, which is also pretty likely.
Howland added: “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.” There’s no doubt here that DuVernay is the right woman for the job.
News recently emerged that the Selma director is actually going ahead with a story that started from a viral tweet – a Lupita Nyong’o and Rihanna buddy movie about them working as co-conspirators scamming “rich white men”. We’re very psyched to see what DuVernay’s got in store across the board.