Raised in Compton, and educated in African American studies at UCLA, film-maker Ava DuVernay is well known for her efforts in providing minorities with platforms to tell their own stories and to utilize their voices. Although not her first film, DuVernay gained a mass increase in recognition when she received her first Golden Globe nomination for the 2014 Historical Drama film Selma based on 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis. Two years later she teamed up with Netflix, following up with American documentary, 13th, a film that explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. The film it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery, with the exception of slavery as punishment for a crime. 13th was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Continuing her partnership with the popular streaming service, DuVernay is collaborating with Participant Media, Harpo Films and Tribeca Productions to bring the infamous true story of the Central Park Five jogger case to Netflix, for premiere in 2019.
Created, written and directed by DuVernay, the five-episode narrative limited scripted series is based on the true story of the 1989 case best known as, The Central Park jogger case. The case was a major news story that involved the assault, rape, and sodomy of Trisha Meili, a white female jogger and the wrongful conviction of five teenagers (four African American, One Hispanic) from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Known as the Central Park Five, they each received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years. Four of the convictions were later appealed and the convictions were affirmed by appellate courts. The defendants spent between 6 and 13 years in prison. The five convicted men sued New York City in 2003 for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. However, under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city refused to settle the suits for a decade because the city's lawyers felt they would win. The settlement was later supported in 2014 once Bill de Blasio became mayor of the city. The case settled for $41 million however, as of December 2014, the five men have reportedly began to pursue an additional $52 million in damages from New York State in the New York Court of Claims.
During the years of the group’s initial request for a settlement from the city a documentary was created in 2012, titled The Central Park Five, with the hope that it would push the city to settle the case against them. It received a Peabody Award in 2013 "for telling a harrowing, instructive story of fear, racism and mob mentality, and for exposing the media madness that fueled the investigation”; much of which was revealed to be heavily instigated by none other than Donald Trump himself (who still holds the belief that they are guilty).
Duvernay's Netflix series is set to expose the breakdown of our criminal justice system, with
each episode focusing on one of the five teenagers. The series will span from the spring of 1989, when each were first questioned about the incident, to 2014 when they were exonerated and a settlement was reached with the city of New York.
“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 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.”
“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, Vice President, Original Content for Netflix. “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.”