When They See Us: When They See Us
June 6, 2019 6:06 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

"When They See Us is a 2019 American drama web television miniseries created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix, that premiered on May 31, 2019. The series was inspired by the Central Park jogger case from 1989 in which a 28-year-old female jogger named Trisha Meili was attacked and raped in Central Park in New York City, leaving her in a coma for 12 days. Five juvenile males and the protagonists of the series– four African-American and one Latino (Antron, Kevin, Yusef, Raymond, and Korey)– were convicted of the crimes by juries in two separate trials in 1990. The convictions were subsequently vacated in 2002 (a legal position in which the parties are treated as though no trial has taken place)."

Aisha Harris for the NYTimes: "The Central Park Five: ‘We Were Just Baby Boys’
The men, whose story will be brought to life in Netflix’s “When They See Us,” discuss the mini-series with their onscreen counterparts.
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"One morning earlier this month, a group of 10 men and teenage boys gathered for a photo shoot in a small studio on the Lower East Side. The overall mood was chill; as the music of Nipsey Hussle, 50 Cent and Wale filled the room, they chatted amiably in between shots, laughing, joking and moving along to the beats.

"In 1989 the 5 men — then teenagers — were arrested in connection with the rape and assault of a white female jogger, and eventually convicted in a case that came to symbolize the stark injustices black and brown people experience within the legal system and in media coverage. They were convicted based partly on police-coerced confessions, and each spent between six and 13-plus years in prison for charges including attempted murder, rape and assault. The other five in the studio that day were the actors tasked with the challenge of portraying their younger selves in the series."
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Salamishah Tillet: ‘When They See Us’ Transforms Its Victims Into Heroes
It is thoughtfully cast, well-paced and visually stunning, thanks to DuVernay’s longtime collaborator, the cinematographer Bradford Young. In fact, “When They See Us” is DuVernay’s strongest work to date. But what makes it so devastating is its relentless portrayal of a criminal justice system that locks up, scapegoats and brutalizes black and brown American children with ease and enthusiasm. Part dirge, part indictment, the series stands out because it insists that we see the boys as they once were and as they always saw themselves: innocent.
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Felice Leon for the Root: "Ava DuVernay on When They See Us and How the Press Failed the Central Park Five"

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Jen Chaney for Vulture: "When They See Us Is an Intimate, Sensitive Look at the Central Park Five Tragedy"
Thirty years ago, five teenagers of color were arrested and charged with raping and beating a white female jogger in Central Park. Prosecutors and reporters tended to refer to them as a single unit after that: a wolf pack, or as they would ultimately become known, the Central Park Five.

When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s sensitively wrought Netflix miniseries about what happened to those boys, strips away the dehumanizing tendency to bunch them together and instead shows what each of them dealt with individually when they were coerced into giving false confessions, forced to do time for a crime they did not commit, and, eventually, exonerated when their convictions were vacated in 2002. The story of the Central Park Five has certainly been covered extensively by media as well as the 2012 documentary The Central Park Five, co-directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon. But this scripted miniseries, which debuts Friday on Netflix, feels more personal due to DuVernay’s intimate approach — she directed and co-wrote all four episodes — and thoughtful performances across the board, especially from the actors who portray the wrongly accused as boys and men.
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Joshua Alston for AV Club: "Ava DuVernay's bruising Central Park Five series is an elegant elegy to young lives lost to the system"
Director Ava DuVernay isn’t content for the story of the Central Park Five to exist as a law enforcement case study, or for the public to only know the men by their reductive sobriquet. When They See Us, DuVernay’s furious and infuriating four-part Netflix series, maintains a disciplined focus on the men involved, showing how their lives and communities suffered irreparable damage as a result of their incarceration after confessing under extreme duress. The ground-level approach lies in stark contrast with that of co-director Ken Burns’ non-fiction take on the same material, which concerns itself more with the procedural errors and how growing anxiety about metropolitan crime created a bloodthirsty mob.
posted by ChuraChura (7 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dear god, this series wrecked me. I watched the first three episodes in a row, and assumed the fourth would be more hopeful as the five get exonerated. Hoo boy.

Such incredible acting. So well-paced and directed. Ava DuVernay was the right person for this story.
posted by adrianhon at 11:51 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I knew that seeing what the boys went through would be horrifying. I did not go in expecting to be so torn apart by seeing their parents and the impossible situation they were in. Likely, that was because I have become a middle-aged parent myself.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:21 PM on June 8


Absolutely gut-wrenching. Those poor men.
posted by daybeforetheday at 10:03 PM on June 8


"Bruising" is absolutely the perfect word for this. After the first episode I looked up as much info as I could, so I was prepared for that last episode at least.

The care and skill and talent of the entire cast and crew shines through every second of this. The acting never seemed forced even though it must have been so difficult to do. The cinematography was spot on. The soundtrack changing through the years but never going for the showy choices. Ava Du Vernay is amazing to pull it all together.

And without demonising the jogger at all. She doesnt deserve any of the blame here - she was a victim first and then used as a prop by Fairstein. It shouldn't be a special achievement that she was treated fairly, but it's a trap other directors have fallen into many times, to try to highlight the innocence of some people at the expense of others.

I was glad that Fairstein and one of her thugs were confronted with their bullshit. It was exactly what I wanted to do so it was a bit cathartic after all that came before. But I'm also glad that neither one was repentant. It would have been pandering to the audience to give a kind of "well we've all learned a lesson here" moment. Because nothing has actually changed since then.
posted by harriet vane at 6:49 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Fantastic show. The acting was incredible. Along with Fleabag, this is the best of the year thus far.
posted by dobbs at 6:45 PM on June 12


I was glad that Fairstein and one of her thugs were confronted with their bullshit. (...) But I'm also glad that neither one was repentant.

I guess you've seen by now that Fairstein has gone ahead and doubled down. Nope, no redemption arcs would appear to be forthcoming for that one, in fiction or reality.
posted by non canadian guy at 12:17 AM on June 17


The way you can sometimes look at a portrait and be able to tell how much the photographer loves that person, that’s how the camera here sees those boys. Sometimes I felt almost panicked watching this that I wasn’t able to reach through my screen and hold them. I’m very glad to see Asante Blackk was nominated for an Emmy.
posted by sallybrown at 6:08 PM on September 19


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