The Netflix limited series, When they see us has been a ghost from the past that continues the haunt the future. What did I see in this horrific but notoriously famous story of the Central Five? I see how it still is a challenge to find justice in America. I see how stereotypes have shattered the mere hope that has been battling through ages among the exploited. This show is a must-watch.It makes you quiver, it wants you to feel guilty of all the wrongdoing. It doesn’t tread on lightly. It wants you to stand up.
Thirty years ago, five young boys of colour were arrested and charged with rape, physical assault of a white female jogger in Central Park. The prosecutors and reporters went on to name the teenagers as – now famously known – the Central Park Five.
Ava DuVernay, who co-wrote and directed the series, lets her sensitivity about what happened to those boys shine throughout the show. When they see us shows what each of them had to deal with individually when they were coerced into giving false confessions. This eventually led them to do time for a crime they never committed. In 2002, they were finally exonerated when their convictions were vacated when another man came forward and confessed to this crime.
The intimate approach by DuVernay and powerhouse performances by all the actors definitely strikes a chord with the audience. The five accused namely, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Korey Wise reminds you how on the basis of colour you can never be at the wrong place at the wrong time. These five men are introduced to us as five young teenagers strolling through Central Park having a fun time on that fateful night. This convenient circumstance leads the prosecutor Linda Fairstein played by hugely talented Felicity Huffman gives you the taste of white privilege that never shies away from the reality of things.
Although the first three episodes focus on the gruesome attack and the trial that follows leading to the imprisonment of the five teenagers, the fourth episode solely focuses on Korey Wise.The only one of the five who was sentenced as an adult and the one who winds up spending the most time behind bars in various prisons. Korey is the only character portrayed from his teen years to adulthood by the same actor of Moonlight fame, Jharrel Jerome who delivers a standout performance and is someone to look out for!
President Trump did not welcome the Netflix show with open arms, as the show reveals footage of a press conference at the time of the trial, when asked to comment about the case, Donald Trump said ’’You’d better believe I hate the people who did this”, while one of the mothers of the accused is watching. When they see us may have a triumphant ending for the protagonists but it makes you wonder how many innocents may still be rotting in prisons.
The statement that is prominently projected on to the audience by this show is held throughout the series and the triumph of the director comes across in this achievement. She reminds us that, in the US, people of colour are presumed guilty at all times even by white liberals sometimes. This series will not let you forget how the justice system, the press and the people of America have failed people of colour in the past and unfortunately in the present too.
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