Rinzy Reviews ‘When They See Us’ (2019)

Network: Netflix

Release Date: May 31

Starring: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Vera Farmiga, Felicity Huffman, et al.

***

On the night of April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old female jogger, Trish Meili, gets brutally beaten and raped in Central Park. Five boys of color between the ages of 14-16 are coerced by the police department, spearheaded by over-ambitious Linda Fairstein, into accepting the charges and confessing on tape. This leads to all of them doing time for varying years.

If you ever think of police brutality in recent time, I want you to think of these five boys –Antron, Kevin, Yusef, Raymond, and Korey- and what they went through in the hands of the American justice system skewed to disfavor people of color. The boys were all convicted by juries of charges of rape, assault, and related crimes in two separate trials in 1990. They were sentenced to maximum terms and Korey, at 16, was sent to adult prison.

In four episodes, Ava DuVarnay told the gruesome story of how five boys were robbed off their childhood. It was at a time when innocence wasn’t cared about as much as solving a case irrespective of the gravity of its racial undertone. The series does a good job examining racism, discrimination, and its destabilizing effect. With beautiful, fast-paced, yet soulful writing and terrific acting, Ava and the actors show the effect of imprisonment on loved ones, and the uncertainty of the future for all of them. She does a great job tackling a topic many would ordinarily shy away from.

Social injustice is still a big issue today; although not as bold as in the case of Central Park Five, it still thrives, and must be fought at all cost until it’s eradicated. This miniseries has reopened interest in the case, and sparked numerous conversations over the many ways the case could’ve proceeded differently. I hear there’ve been calls to prosecute Linda Fairstein for malicious prosecution, and I support this call. She’s the sole reason those boys ever did time; if she’d done her job without prejudice, the real, sole perpetrator of the crime, Matias Reyes, would’ve been caught much earlier. And her rise in career and popularity might’ve still happened. For letting little boys suffer that way, in my eyes, she’s as guilty as Reyes, and I think she deserves a cell beside him.

Lest I forget, the police carried out a shabby investigation, but they didn’t act alone, the press were complicit too. If both of these institutions had done their jobs, five children wouldn’t have been forced to grow up without a childhood. No amount of monetary settlement can ever make up for this.

Favorite scene: When Korey begs refuses to answer the prosecutor questions in court. Touching.

Favorite actor: Jharrel Jerome’s Korey. He’s terrific.

***

Director: Ava DuVernay

Rinzy’s Rating: 4.5/5

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