One of the most critically acclaimed and successful documentaries of 2012 won’t have a shot of winning an Academy Award.
“The Central Park Five,” about five innocent young Black and Brown men who were falsely accused and convicted of the rape of a young white woman in 1989, didn’t make the shortlist for the Best Documentary category for the Oscars. Other notable docs that were left off the shortlist include “Marley,” about the life and art of reggae legend Bob Marley, and “West of Memphis,” about three teenagers who were arrested for the murder of three 8-year-old children.
What made the list? Films like “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” about the Chinese artist, “Bully,” the documentary about bullying in schools, “The Gatekeepers,” about the Shin Bet (Israel’s Secret Service Agency), “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” about pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and “Detropia,” about the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Tambay A. Obenson, writer of the “Shadow and Act” blog for Indiewire.com, found it puzzling that the feature-length doc was left off the list.
“I’m truly baffled by this,” said Obenson. “Not that none of the 15 films listed below aren’t worthy (I haven’t seen them all); but I can say that of those I have seen (more than about half) on this list, I think ‘The Central Park Five’ most certainly belongs, and I’d say is even stronger than some of them. The subjects at the center of the film could most certainly use the raised awareness that an Oscar nomination might have afforded the film, and, in return, their story, as well as the 10-year-old civil suits they each filed against the city of New York.”
When Burns talked to the AmNews last month, he discussed his thoughts on the film and his feelings on when he first witnessed the coverage of the case on TV.
“I bought it,” he said. “I thought, ‘What was happening to our cities? What happened?’ [New York State Governor Mario] Cuomo was rubbing his hands and saying the cities are ungovernable. It just seemed to be symbolic of a decline. And then I noticed that when they were vindicated–when their sentences were vacated 13 years later–I noticed that the coverage was nothing, and my outrage began to boil. And my outrage has continued to boil for the last 10 years.”
The outrage, the coverage and its aftermath weren’t enough for the Oscar committee.