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Ava DuVernay and Netflix have renamed their limited series centered on the Central Park Five case to When They See Us. The new title “embraces the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker,” explains DuVernay of the five men at the center of the four-part miniseries, which releases May 31.
The creator and streaming giant announced the new title and premiere date for DuVernay’s highly anticipated series on Friday with a first look teaser. (Watch that, below.) “Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five. They are Korey, Antron, Raymond, Yusef, Kevin. They are millions of young people of color who are blamed, judged and accused on sight. May 31. A film in four parts about who they really are. WHEN THEY SEE US,” tweeted DuVernay.
The timing of the release of When They See Us is notable, as 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the case, when five young black were wrongly convicted of a brutal rape that took place in Manhattan’s famous park in the spring of 1989.
The project was initially titled The Central Park Five, a reference to the name the media dubbed the five teenagers of color who were convicted. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise were freed in 2002 after more than a decade behind bars when DNA evidence proved they were not responsible for the attack on Trisha Meili.
The limited series’ name change is an attempt to break the men free from that moniker. When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case and how the true story gripped the country, but will be told from the perspective of the five men. The series, therefore, should have a title that represents their story, Netflix said in a release on Friday.
When They See Us will center on the five teenagers from Harlem and will span 25 years, beginning in the spring of 1989 when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, and through their 2002 exoneration and 2014 settlement reached with the city of New York.
The miniseries boasts an acclaimed cast that includes Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez and Asante Blackk.
“In 1989, five black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time,” said DuVernay in her statement on Friday. “In 2019, our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories.”
She continued, “In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system. We wanted to reflect this perspective in our title, embracing the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker.”
When They See Us was created by DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed the four parts. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media; Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films; and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions executive produce alongside DuVernay through her banner, Forward Movement. Attica Locke, Robin Swicord and Michael Starrbury also serve as writers.
This is DuVernay’s second project at Netflix after 2016’s Oscar-nominated documentary feature 13th, which focused on the criminal justice system, private prisons and the mass incarceration of black men in America.
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