Ava DuVernay’s Fight to Tell the True Story of the Central Park Five

Vanity Fair - 05-17


It’s nine P.M. on a Tuesday night in early April. Ava DuVernay is ensconced in a sound studio deep in the Paramount lot—on Michael Bay Avenue, no less—jamming to finish the mix on the first episode of her upcoming four-part Netflix series, When They See Us, before her April 17 deadline. The series is ambitious, and in many ways the culmination of DuVernay’s filmmaking career to date. Over four episodes, it will tell the story of the Central Park Five case—in 1989, five black and brown teenagers were wrongly accused of the assault and rape of a female jogger on the grounds of Manhattan’s most treasured landmark. The men were exonerated years later, in 2002, and the case has long been a prominent example of the justice system’s endemic racism and the dangers of a credulous press, among other institutional failures.