Filmmaker Ken Burns speaks onstage during the ‘Ken Burns’s The Address’ panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at Langham Hotel on January 20, 2014 in Pasadena, California
*Documentarian Ken Burns, who has put his stamp on such topics as the civil war, national parks, jazz, the Central Park Five and most recently prohibition and the Dust Bowl, will next year turn his attention toward baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.
Set for the fall of 2015, the PBS documentary will span four hours and attempt to dig beneath the legend that fans saw on the field.
*PBS will air the latest Ken Burns documentary “Central Park Five” on April 16, to be followed the next day with an online discussion featuring the filmmakers and all five of the exonerated men, streamed live by The New York Times.
The film tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. Directed and produced by Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns, the film chronicles the Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of the five teenagers whose lives were turned upside down.
“Back in 1989, we was 14, 15, 16 years old and our voices were stolen from us in the process,” said Raymond Santana, one of the Central Park Five, during TCA interviews for the film in January. “Throughout this whole 15, 20 year period, you never really heard from us. There was interviews that were done here and there, but nothing to this magnitude. And so this was the perfect opportunity for us to finally put our voices out there and for you the viewer to connect with us on a whole different level and for you to see us as human beings.”
Central Park Five defendants on trial in 1990
Santana was wrongly convicted along with co-defendants Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise. The five confessed to the rape and beating of Trisha Meili following many hours of harsh interrogation by veteran homicide detectives. The police announced that the young men had been part of a gang of teenagers who were out “wilding,” assaulting joggers and bicyclists in Central Park that evening. The press, fomenting at the mouth for juicy crime stories, ate it up like candy and churned out stories that stirred the public’s call for justice. The teens were tried as adults and convicted of rape, despite inconsistent and inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected any of them to the victim. The five served their complete sentences, between 6 and 13 years, before another man, serial rapist Matias Reyes, admitted to the crime in 2002, and DNA testing supported his confession.
A year later, the men filed civil lawsuits against the City of New York, and the police officers and prosecutors who had worked toward their conviction. That lawsuit remains unresolved.
The Central Park Five today
On April 17, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm ET, viewers of “The Central Park Five” will have an opportunity to continue the conversation with “Justice and The Central Park Five,” a live TimesTalks discussion hosted by The New York Times. Participants will include Ken and Sarah Burns, Jim Dwyer, the New York Times columnist who covered the Central Park Jogger case and is featured in the film, and the five exonerated men.
Santana, now pushing 40, says being able to talk about his ordeal during these post-screening discussions has helped him to heal.
“After each one of these screenings, you know, there are people upset and people crying and they want to come up and they just want to talk to us and they want to apologize,” he told us. “And overall the response has been very healing. It’s been very therapeutic for the five of us, you know, when we do come out.”
Raymond Santana at “The Central Park Five” New York Special Screening at Dolby 88 Theater on October 2, 2012 in New York City.
The TimesTalks discussion will be streamed live online at nytimes.com/cityroom. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using #cp5. The full film will be streamed online at http://video.pbs.org/ through May 1.
Below, Santana says he emerged from his experience resenting the media for its role in fanning the flames of their conviction, while remaining eerily silent when they were cleared.
Watch the trailer for PBS’ “Central Park Five” below.
*A federal judge has rejected efforts by the city of New York to subpoena outtakes from Ken Burns’s documentary, “The Central Park Five,” which describes how five teenagers – four African Americans, one Hispanic – were pressured to confess to the assault of a woman in Central Park in 1989 but were exonerated after serving lengthy sentences when the actual rapist confessed and DNA evidence supported his admission.
The five filed a lawsuit against the city that has been dragging through the courts for ten years. The city had asked for the outtakes and notes of interviews conducted with the five men, maintaining that the film did not fall under laws protecting the sources of journalists since it amounted to advocacy and not reporting.
But in his opinion, Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis wrote that having a point of view does not strip away the law’s protections. Indeed, it seems likely that a filmmaker would have a point of view going into a project, he wrote. The city’s lawyers themselves, he observed, would have ample opportunity to question the men during pretrial depositions.
In an interview with the New York Times, Burns said that he hoped that the resolution of the city’s lawsuit would now return the focus of the case to the claims against the city by the five men — something that haunted New York for far too long.
PBS will premiere “Central Park Five” on April 16, 2013. Watch the trailer below.
(from left to right) Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, also known as the Central Park Five await their fate in court in 1989.
*New York City is still reeling over a heinous crime committed in the city’s sacred Central Park in 1989.
But this time around, the political crusher that came down on five youth and sent them to jail in a crucial part of their development is on trial.
Five youth that became known as the Central Park Five consists of Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray.
In the new Ken Burns’ documentary, you take an unbelievable ride through the true story of the falsely accused boys’ lives as they were locked in jails for more than a decade and proven to be innocent 13 years after the crime.
*In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were isolated reports of people in neighboring states who saw the influx of displaced New Orleanians into their cities as a burden – or even worse, a nuisance. But imagine if whole cities and states harbored pure hatred and zero sympathy for Katrina survivors – not only making fun of their sudden loss of homes and livelihoods, but developing with ways to keep them as segregated as possible?
Welcome to California during the Dust Bowl, where during the 1930s, white refugees escaping the ravaged Great Plains quickly found out what it was like to live as an African Americans under Jim Crow. [Watch in the promo clip below.]
“There were signs in movie theaters saying, ‘Okies and N words,’ upstairs,” said filmmaker Ken Burns, who chronicles the greatest man-made ecological disaster in American history in his four-hour PBS documentary “The Dust Bowl,” airing 7-9 p.m. Sunday (Part 1) and Monday (Part 2), Nov. 18-19.
Burns calls the Dust Bowl, “a ten-year apocalypse punctuated by hundreds of terrifying black blizzards that killed not only farmers’ crops and cattle, but their children too. All of this was superimposed on the greatest economic catastrophe in the history of the world, the Depression. It was an epic of human pain and suffering, but it is also the story of heroic perseverance.”
The worst of these storms took place on Black Sunday, April 14th, 1935, just halfway through the decade-long cataclysm. It was the final straw for many residents, who realized they had to leave the Southern Plains and relocate to what they thought would be easier times in California.
However, the West coast was not so gracious. California officials quickly erected shantytowns in the Central Valley to house Dust Bowl refugees fleeing the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, and parts of southeastern Colorado, northwestern Kansas, and northeastern New Mexico.
“These were unwelcome job stealers,” Burns said of California’s attitude. “So the jungles that were set up in the Central Valley were squalid slums of folks who wanted to pick at harvest season and just hopefully, miraculously disappear, and all were called, wherever they were from, Okies. So the Okies in California were second class citizens.”
(L-R) Author, The Dust Bowl Dayton Duncan, Dust Bowl survivor Cal Crabill, author and columnist Tim Egan, and Filmmaker Ken Burns speak onstage at “The Dust Bowl, A Film by Ken Burns” panel during day 2 of the PBS portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles
A must-see for any fan of Ken Burns films, “The Dust Bowl” not only illustrates with startling detail the grand scale of this disaster, but colors it with intimate, first-hand accounts from the people who witnessed it.
“More than any other film we have made, it is an oral history populated less by historians and experts than those who survived those horrible days,” said Burns. They are at the end of their own lives now, but they were children and teenagers then, their searing memories as raw and direct as if this had all happened yesterday.”
One such survivor, Calvin Crabill, was 11-years-old when he and his father fled Holly, Colorado for Los Angeles. In the film, Crabill talks about the amount of cruelty they suffered after arriving in California. Below, he describes how the animosity was still palpable at his recent 55th high school reunion.