Must-See: Ava Duvernay’s ‘When They See Us’ is a difficult but necessary watch

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EEW Magazine // Entertainment News

(L-R) Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Ava DuVernay, Antron Mccray, and Yusef Salaam attend the World Premiere of Netflix's "When They See Us" at the Apollo Theater on May 20, 2019 in New York City. (Credit: GETTY)

(L-R) Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Ava DuVernay, Antron Mccray, and Yusef Salaam attend the World Premiere of Netflix's "When They See Us" at the Apollo Theater on May 20, 2019 in New York City. (Credit: GETTY)


EEW RATING: 5.0 STARS

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Academy Award nominee Ava Duvernay’s four-part Netflix series, “When They See Us” is a horrifying and heartbreaking tale of five innocent black and Latino teenagers, known as the “Central Park Five,” being found guilty of rape and jailed—though they never committed the crime.

While we know these victims of gross injustice were later exonerated, that doesn’t make their true stories any easier to watch. Yet, EEW Magazine recommends watching.

Korey Wise, who spent 12 years behind bars, was one of five— the others were Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana — all coerced into confessing to the crime.

Duvernay brilliantly captures the horrific odyssey the five endured over a 25-years period, from the 1989 night they were arrested to the day a settlement was reached with the city in 2014.

From left: Asante Blackk, Jharrel Jerome, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, and Marquis Rodriguez at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York to promote their Netflix series When They See Us on May 20, 2019. (Credit: Christopher Smith/The Associated Press)

From left: Asante Blackk, Jharrel Jerome, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, and Marquis Rodriguez at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York to promote their Netflix series When They See Us on May 20, 2019. (Credit: Christopher Smith/The Associated Press)

The case was drawn on racial lines from the outset, with the victim being a young white woman, and it drew worldwide attention. Tabloid headlines compared the teens to a wolf pack, and Donald Trump took out newspaper ads calling for the return of the death penalty in New York State. It took years for the five to be exonerated, and they spent most of their youth in prison. Another man was eventually found guilty of the attack.

“They were never supposed to be heard from again,” said Duvernay. “They were supposed to be buried and forgotten. They are miracles. And we need more.”

Though they are miracles, still today we are witnessing not-so-miraculous outcomes for others due to questionable police tactics and fatal encounters with black men like Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Michael Brown among them.

After you watch, don’t stop there. Duvernay is encouraging viewers interested in tools and tactics to reshape the criminal system of injustice to get involved in the fight through Color of Change. Learn more here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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