Netflix held their premiere for Academy Award-nominee Ava DuVernay’s new series, “When They See Us,” at the world famous Apollo Theater last week.
Although DuVernay did not walk the red carpet she did take the stage to introduce the cast and the five men—Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise—who were wrongly accused as teenagers of the brutal rape of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park. Despite being innocent they were found guilty and went to jail.
Most insiders are calling the four-part series her best work to date and when DuVernay screened “When They See Us” with the five accused men in attendance, she had an emotional response watching them watch a story that took four years to make.
The year was 1989. Antron, Kevin, Yusef, Raymond and Korey—who became known as the Central Park Five. There was no justice for these teenagers. They were convicted despite the lack of any physical evidence tying them to the crime and served six to 13 years in prison.
They were innocent—innocent—and in 2002, their convictions were overturned after another man confessed and DNA evidence exonerated them. They maintain that the police coerced them into making false confessions. They never received an apology from the city, despite being awarded a settlement.
Harlem opened its hearts to DuVernay with thunderous applause. They hung on her every word. The dynamic filmmaker made it clear that she respected the hard-working crew members who made the film possible and encouraged them “to stand up” if they were sitting in the crowd.
Her mood, which is always positive and upbeat, turned serious when she spoke from the heart to the Harlem audience.
“As you continue to watch the piece, you really see the effect of this ordeal, this incarceration on the family. Family structures are broken apart. No amount of money can get that back. So they’re making their way through,” said DuVernay.
She also made it clear that a situation like what happened to Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise could “absolutely” happen again today.
“When They See Us” premieres Friday, May 31, on Netflix.