The Central ParkFive. DVD. 2hrs. PBS Dist. 2013. ISBN 978-1-60883.854-7. $24.99.
Gr 9 Up–Filmmaker Ken Burns turns his well-documented talents to a more contemporary topic: the beating and rape of a white woman inNew York’sCentral Parkduring racial and class strife in the late 1980s. The news media applied incredible pressure on the city’s embattled police force to solve the crime which resulted in charges made against five Hispanic and black young men who were in the park that night. After each served prison sentences for the crime despite only meager circumstantial evidence and coerced confessions, another man’s admission of guilt was supported by evidence. This moving documentary of what came to be called “The Central Park Jogger Case” tells the story from the perspective of the five men with a rich mix of archival video and personal commentary from all those involved—public officials, media professionals, attorneys, and historians. This thorough review, typical of Burns’s celebrated style, makes an historical event understandable and relevant. Particularly effective are the commentaries by four of the five victims of what was generally considered to have been society’s compulsion for quick “justice” at the time and its resultant effect on racial relations nationwide. Some street language is used, but it is hardly offensive and fits naturally into the speakers’ milieu. The options of chapter selection as well as English and Spanish subtitles enhance the value of this resource for both classroom and library settings.–Dwain Thomas, formerlyLakeParkHigh School,Roselle,IL