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Ava DuVernay Is Creating a Central Park Five Series for Netflix

The filmmaker plans to explore each step the criminal justice system took before the five Harlem teens were exonerated in 2014 for a crime they didn't commit.

by Lauren Messman
Jul 6 2017, 8:59pm

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

On the heels of her Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, filmmaker Ava DuVernay is planning to tackle the Central Park Five case as a five-part limited series for Netflix, her second project with the streaming giant, Variety reports.

The Selma director is slated to write and direct all five parts of the series, which will focus on each of the five Harlem teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping Trisha Meili in Central Park in 1989. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the series will also cover each step the criminal justice system took until Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were freed in 2002 and exonerated in 2014—channeling many of the same themes DuVernay explored in 13th.

"The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades," DuVernay said in a statement. "In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of colour 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."

The series will also highlight how many members of the community responded to the case, including Donald Trump, who was vocal about the case and spent $85,000 on newspaper ads calling for the death penalty, according to the Reporter. The five men were finally cleared with DNA evidence in 2002 and reached a settlement with New York City in 2014. Last month, three of the five—Salaam, Richardson, and Santana—finally graduated high school after missing their first graduation in prison.

"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," Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content for Netflix, added in the press release. "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."

DuVernay will executive produce the mini-series alongside Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal, and Berry Welsh. This will be DeVernay's second project with Netflix, and her third working with Winfrey, who she collaborated with on Selma and the television series Queen Sugar. The limited Central Park Five series will hit Netflix sometime in 2019.