Ava DuVernay Explores Central Park Five Case for Netflix Miniseries

By Sameer Rao Jul 07, 2017

Ava DuVernay ("Selma") will revisit some of her Netflix documentary "13th‘s" subject matter—police violence, unjust incarceration and the vilification of Black and Brown people—for an upcoming narrative miniseries about the Central Park Five.

The Hollywood Reporter reported yesterday (July 6) that DuVernay will write and direct a five-part limited series about the wrongfully convicted Black and Brown teenagers for the streaming giant. The publication added that the series will cover events from 1989, when the Central Park Five were first arrested, to 2014, when they settled a lawsuit with the city for their conviction and incarceration. Each episode will focus on one of the five teens, chronicling their interactions with a punitive criminal justice system.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise spent more than a decade behind bars after being convicted for the violent 1989 rape and assault of Trisha Meili, a White woman long referred to by media as the "Central Park Jogger." The case’s racial dynamics, relevance to the burgeoning "tough on crime" era and the boys’ insistence that police forced their confessions pushed the case into national conversation. The five weren’t freed until 2002, after years of advocacy for their release and a revisited DNA test that linked serial rapist Matias Reyes to the crime.

"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 with [Netflix’s vice president of original content] Cindy Holland and the team there," DuVernay said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "The story of the men known as the 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."

The last sentence of DuVernay’s statement refers to current President Donald Trump, who took out full-page newspaper ads during the trial that advocated for New York to reinstate the death penalty for the Central Park Five. CNN reported in 2016, barely a month before his presidential win, that Trump still publicly questions the overturned convictions. 

Father-and-daughter documentarians Ken and Sarah Burns ("Jackie Robinson") previously covered the case in their 2012 film, "The Central Park Five."

Netflix picked up another DuVernay-directed project—a buddy film starring Rihanna ("Bates Motel") and Lupita Nyong’o ("Queen of Katwe") that grew out of an informal Black Twitter campaign—at the Cannes Film Festival in May.