The new Netflix mini-series When They See Us, directed by Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay, premiered last week. The four-part series, based on the true story of the Central Park Five who were wrongfully convicted for the Central Park jogger rape case, takes you on an emotional ride of five minority teenagers’ journey from conviction to exoneration whilst critically examining the palpable racial inequality of the US prison system. Alongside a talented cast of actors, including Vera Farmiga, Jharrell Jerome, Joshua Jackson, and Jovan Adepo, DuVernay effectively absorbs viewers in a distressing but necessary tale to tell.
The series seamlessly travels back and forth in time between the characters as teenagers and as adults, exploring the angst-ridden trial, the frustration in prison, and the disappointment endured upon entering back into society as ex-convicts with no prospects. Alongside music by 80s Billy Ocean, noughties Mary J. Blige, and contemporaries like Diplo, When They See Us uses the notion of time to stress the number of years the justice system stole from the teenagers Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise. At times the series moves at a pace that can almost border on a standstill, forcing the audience to engage with the agony of the character, pleading for time to pass.
When They See Us is now available to watch on Netflix.