'The Central Park Five': This Is Why Documentaries Exist

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

Jason Bailey is the film editor at Flavorwire, and has also written for Slate, Salon, and the Village Voice.

The night before the media screening of The Central Park Five, an extraordinary new documentary from Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, I was telling my wife about it, based on the summary I was sent by the publicist. "Have you heard of the Central Park Five?" I asked. She hadn't. I barely had myself, mostly thanks to the email. "Well, back in 1989, this jogger in Central Park was raped and beaten—"

She interrupted, nodding. "Oh, the Central Park jogger. I remember that."

Our little playlet says a lot about the need for this particular documentary, about how vital and important the film is—because, while even those who didn't live in New York in 1989 heard the terrifying story of the 28-year-old white investment banker who was raped and nearly killed by a gang of young black and Latino thugs, there are still very few aware that a serial rapist confessed to that attack 13 years later. His DNA matched, and the five men's convictions were vacated. As historian Craig Steven Wilder notes, "Their innocence never got the attention that their guilt did." Now, McMahon and the Burnses are looking to remedy that....

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