Filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Netflix are joining forces yet again, this time on a limited series concerning the real-life Central Park Five case. DuVernay first collaborated with the streaming giant on their Oscar-nominated documentary 13th – a feature that, like her new limited series, deals with the U.S. criminal justice system. The Selma director is also attached to helm an original Netflix buddy movie starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o (a project that famously started out as a Twitter joke-gone viral).
For those unfamiliar: the Central Park Five case began in 1989, when five black teenagers from Harlem (Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise) were arrested and convicted of raping Trisha Meili while she was jogging in Central Park. However, their convictions were eventually vacated in 2002, when one Matias Reyes confessed to raping Meili himself – something subsequently confirmed by DNA evidence. The five men were then fully exonerated in 2014, upon reaching a monetary settlement with the City of New York for their wrongful conviction.
The Central Park Five Netflix limited series will encompass five installments (all of which DuVernay is both writing and directing), with a 2019 premiere date target in mind. Per the official announcement, DuVernay released the following statement – one that makes reference to current U.S. president Donald Trump’s recent highly-controversial comments about the original case:
“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 Cindy Holland and the team there. 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.”
DuVernay has earned much in the way of acclaim for her handling of sensitive sociopolitical subject matter in the past, making her all the more ideal a candidate to tackle the story of the Central Park Five for Netflix. The case has already been made the subject of an acclaimed 2012 documentary in the form of The Central Park Five, by touchstone documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon. However, with DuVernay at the helm, the Netflix limited series should be able to distinguish itself from the Central Park Five documentary, offering a more personal vantage point on the events – one that should be equally well-researched as its documentary predecessor (as all of DuVernay’s non-fiction work is known for being).
Beyond that, DuVernay is part of a growing group of filmmakers who have come to enjoy collaborating with Netflix and the creative freedom afforded to them by the service. Seeing as Netflix is set to premiere original movies from such big name directors as David Ayer (Bright) and Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) in the foreseeable future, in addition to both of DuVernay’s next two announced projects after her and Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time movie adaptation, there’s all the more reason to think that Netflix’s reputation as an original film and TV production house will only continue to blossom in the year(s) ahead.
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