When They See Us
“When They See Us” is a limited series directed by Ava Duvernay that tells the story of “The Central Park Five”. It is the multidimensional story of five teenagers of color accused and convicted of gang raping a white female jogger in Central Park with no physical evidence or eyewitnesses tying them to the crime. Coerced confessions, manipulation of facts and overzealous prosecution land them behind bars for years.
The series not only tells the stories of the teens, but how the trials and incarcerations affect the families left behind. The ensemble cast featured 9 actors in total playing the older and younger versions of the accused, and stellar parental performances by Michael K. Williams, Neicy Nash and John Leguizamo. The cinematography and editing choices are masterful.
Four of the five teenagers were sentenced to juvenile facilities once convicted seeing each other periodically while locked away, all alone at age 16 Korey Wise was sent to adult prison. Jharrel Jerome played Wise and was the only actor to play both the younger and older versions of his character. Jerome took us to places emotionally where we may never fully recover; from heartbreak, to anger, to helplessness, to despair and ultimately triumph.
“When They See Us” is a gut wrenching display of how human beings fail one another, project trauma onto each other, and find redemption in places that seem hopeless. When we saw them, we saw all the boys that disappeared from our Detroit neighborhood from 1989 to 1999, we saw our brothers, our spouses, our friends. When does it end?
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