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New Ken Burns Documentary ‘The Central Park Five’ Explores An Ugly Chapter In New York’s History; Op
December 19, 2012
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Critically-acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns has a new documentary opening in Toronto on Christmas Day called 'The Central Park Five.'

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Film Critics Circle named it the best documentary of the year.

And it was hit on festival circuit, at both Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film explores one of the biggest wrongful conviction cases in New York City in history.

On April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old white investment banker was attacked while jogging in Central Park. She was brutally beaten, raped, bound and gagged and left to die.

filmmaker-ken-burns-ordered-to-hand-over-footage-from-new-documentary-the-central-park-five-vows-to-fight-it-feature1.jpg In the attack, the woman suffered a serious brain injury and went into a coma that lasted 12 days.

Police arrested five African American and Latino teenagers - aged 14-16 - who had been in the park that night. After being held and questioned for more than 24 hours, all of them confessed on tape.

They later recanted, saying their confessions had been coerced.

The mayor at the time, Ed Koch, called it the "crime of the century." Donald Trump took out a full page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty.

In the end, the five boys - Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise - were all convicted and served prison sentences of anywhere from 6 to 13 years.

But in 2002, a serial rapist and murderer named Matias Reyes confessed he had attacked the jogger alone and DNA evidence proved his story.

By that time, all of the 'Central Park Five' were out of jail except one (who was serving time on a separate drug charge).

The five were later exonerated.

And the district attorney re-investigated the crime and found that authorities had missed significant clues that pointed to the boys' being innocent.

The five men filed a civil suit against the city of New York for $250 million, which still hasn't been heard 10 years later.

Here's the trailer.

Meantime, lawyers for the city are demanding that Burns turn over footage, interviews and outtakes.

However, Burns and his co-producer/daughter Sarah Burns are fighting the subpoena.

In this piece on businessweek.com, Burns says "When we were working on the film, we contacted police, the prosecution, and city for interviews. Our calls were either never returned or we were told that people weren't available. We were stunned at the stonewalling."

He goes on to say "I can't attribute motives, but I think that in order to bolster their case they were looking for discrepancies between what the young men said to them and what they said to us."

"The government should not have the ability to subpoena notes and outtakes when they don't like the way things are going," he says.

Burns is on the show tomorrow. In this clip, he talks about the case and race relations in America.

The woman who was attacked - Trisha Meili - published a best-selling memoir in 2003 called "I Am the Central Park Jogger."

Since then, she's become an inspirational speaker and ran the New York City Marathon in four hours and 30 minutes.

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