Ava DuVernay is turning the story of the Central Park Five into a miniseries for Netflix.
She will be writing and directing the five-part project about the notorious case of five young black men wrongly convicted of a brutal rape that took place in Manhattan’s Central Park during the spring of 1989.
For DuVernay, it’s her second project at Netflix, after 2016’s Oscar-nominated documentary feature 13th, which focused on the criminal justice system, private prisons and the mass incarceration of black men in America.
“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,” said DuVernay. “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.”
Donald Trump was one of the most vocal during the Central Park Five witch hunt. He spent a reported $85,000 on full-page ads in the city’s major daily newspapers that called for New York to reinstate the death penalty. Even though evidence has since vindicated the five young men, Trump has referred to them as guilty as recently as 2016.
The five men — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — were freed in 2002 after more than a decade behind bars when DNA evidence proved they were not responsible for the attack on Trisha Meili.
“This is one of the most talked-about cases of our time, and Ava’s passionate vision and masterful direction will bring the human stories behind the headlines to life in this series,” said Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vp original content. “After powerfully reframing the public conversation about criminality and injustice in 13th, Ava now turns a new lens to a case that exposes deep flaws in our criminal justice system.”
The limited series will offer a breakdown of how the criminal justice system handled each phase of the infamous case, each part focusing on one of the five Harlem teenagers. It will span from 1989 to 2014. On board as executive producers are Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Films, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh from Tribeca Productions and DuVernay. It’s not the first time the Central Park Five have gotten the TV treatment. In 2012, Ken Burns tackled the subject matter in a longform PBS documentary.
DuVernay now seems to be just as focused on television as she is on her thriving film career. The second season of her critical darling Queen Sugar just premiered on OWN. On the movie front, 2017 will see the release of her big-budget adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time at Disney.