Ava DuVernay is returning to Netflix for her next project: a limited series focusing on the "Central Park Five" case that would play-out from the late 1980's until justice was finally served in 2014. Netflix greenlit the five-episode scripted series for an expected 2019 debut, with DuVernay serving not only as the show's creator but also as writer and director for the series.
The currently untitled series is based on the true story of the 1989 case of five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in New York's Central Park. Each episode highlights how the combination of a broken criminal justice system and a "if it bleeds, it leads" media conspired to wrongfully convict these men (Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise) of raping Trisha Meili in Central Park by giving each man his own story. The series will span from when the men were first questioned in 1989 and follow their cases through 2014, when they were finally exonerated and a settlement was reached with The City of New York.
For DuVernay, this project marks a return to Netflix after the streaming service hosted her 2016 documentary 13th, based on the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that freed the slaves and banned slavery, exploring how the privatization of the prison system and years of systemic racism in our legal process have led to a new form of slavery. Participant Media, Tribeca Productions and Harpo Productions are backing the project; with DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh serving as executive producers. Winfrey and DuVernay had previously collaborated on the Oscar-winning film Selma and the OWN series Queen Sugar.
For DuVernay, returning to Netflix seemed like the right decision to tell the story she needed to tell:
"I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on 13TH and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project with Cindy Holland and the team there. The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn – from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the President of the United States."
Giving DuVernay the opportunity to tell the story of these young men is a decision that Cindy Holland, Vice President, Original Content for Netflix, feels represents what Netflix should always be about:
"This is one of the most talked-about cases of our time and Ava's passionate vision and masterful direction will bring the human stories behind the headlines to life in this series. After powerfully reframing the public conversation about criminality and injustice in 13TH, Ava now turns a new lens to a case that exposes deep flaws in our criminal justice system."
Check-out the trailer for DuVernay's 13th here: