There are many brilliant documentaries out there, but once in a while a documentary comes up that shines above the rest not only because of the subject matter it covers, but because of how it presents an in-depth point of view about the events that are featured.
The Central Park Five is a strong, focused, and investigative documentary that takes a look at the wrongful conviction of five young black and Latino individuals incarcerated for the rape of a white woman in Central Park in the year 1989.
Featuring interviews with the five accused, along with various other individuals that are either related to the accused, were part of the court proceeding, or where part of the city and the community when the happenings took place, the documentary successfully gives a complete picture of the tragic events that took place. The only unfortunate aspect of the entire documentary is that we do not get any comments from the various justice/police departments involved who were apparently contacted by the documentary makers but refused to partake.
Where The Central Park Five succeeds as a documentary is that it simply does not stick to the crime that was committed and how these young individuals between the ages of 13-16 years were blamed for it, but rather it takes a look at the complete life of these individuals; from the time when they were growing up in the various “blocks” of the city, to what they were doing when the crime took place, and eventually how they were “manipulated” into admitting to the crime leading to a lengthy trial, jail sentence, and how eventually their innocence was proved. The film even takes a look into their lives after their release and how difficult it was for them to be accepted back into the society even though they were free.
While the five individuals were released years later, after serving many years in jail for a crime they did not commit the documentary taps into the zeitgeist of society in the 1990s that to an extent still mirrors our present day social order. The film looks at how various elements, like racial profiling, the media, the justice department, all had a hand in curving the thought process of the nation towards a particular direction.
It is this social commentary on the departments that are formed to protect us but sometimes mislead us, the attitudes of society, and the strong belief and courage that made the five individuals and their families fight for the truth year after year that makes The Central Park Five an extraordinary film that should be watched by everyone.