The Central Park Five
One of the accused teens, Yusef Salaam.

Amid all the tension and violence that characterized New York in the 1980s, there was one story that, in terms of media coverage, trumped them all--that of the white female jogger who was attacked in Central Park.

A fascinating new documentary, The Central Park Five, finally gives a voice to the then-teenage boys (four black and one Latino) who were manipulated into false confessions and wrongfully convicted of the crime.

Directed by Sarah Burns, a first-time filmmaker and author of a 2011 book on the subject (in tandem with her prominent documentarian father, Ken Burns, and film-producer husband David McMahon), the film communicates a seriously powerful message. The team used a mix of historical footage, extensive research and in-depth interviews with reporters who covered the story (like The New York Times’ Jim Dwyer), important figures at the time (like mayor Ed Koch) and the now-free men. (The case was overturned years later when the actual attacker revealed himself.)

But beyond just this singular story, larger themes of race relations, class divisions, police corruption and unethical media practices unfold.

Although it won’t necessarily be the lighthearted holiday movie on your list, it is an absolute must-see.

"The Central Park Five" is currently playing at IFC Center, Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Maysles Cinema.

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