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Latest Ken Burns film to highlight Monadnock International Film Festival

  • During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,<br/>Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and  Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. <br/><br/>Photo by Rahoul Ghose

    During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,
    Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989.

    Photo by Rahoul Ghose Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene.

    Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,<br/>Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and  Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. <br/><br/>Photo by Rahoul Ghose
  • Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene.

Ken Burns was in New York City, editing his film about the Civil War, in the spring of 1989 when a young woman was raped and badly beaten while jogging in Central Park. Her story drew national media attention when police said the five black and Latino teens accused of the crime had been “wilding,” or searching at random for a victim.

“I don’t think people anywhere weren’t aware of what was being called the crime of the century,” Burns said. “Everyone just accepted the word of the cops and prosecutors on what had happened. But when they were vindicated, the coverage was minimal.”

The story of the five teens, who spent years in jail before their convictions were overturned when another inmate confessed to the crime, is told in Burns’s most recent project, “The Central Park Five,” which he co-directed with his daughter, Sarah Burns, and her husband, David McMahon. The movie, which will be shown nationally on PBS on April 16, will also air on Saturday at the Colonial Theatre in Keene as the finale of the first Monadnock International Film Festival.

“Sarah heard about the case, wrote about it and couldn’t let go,” Burns said. “David said it should be a film. It’s thrilling to work with your child, and with her husband. They’re very talented filmmakers.”

Burns, known for his award-winning documentaries, will speak about the film after the Saturday showing. He’ll be joined by two of the Central Park Five, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam.

“I’ll get out of the way,” Burns said. “People will want to talk to them. We wanted them to tell their story. You can imagine how cautious they are. We worked hard to earn their trust and they rewarded us with some of the most compelling and moving interviews we’ve ever had.”

Burns said “The Central Park Five” is unlike any of the other films he’s done.

“There’s no narrator,” he said. “There’s a pace that fits the time and the crime. These young men were labeled as sex offenders. They had their youth ripped from them. At the heart of the film is this continuing struggle over what we do when we continue to judge people by the color of their skin, not the content of their character, to borrow from Dr. King.”

Burns said civil lawsuits against the city of New York have been ongoing ever since the men’s convictions were vacated in 2002, after they had already served their sentences. The latest delaying tactic was a request for outtakes from Burns’s film, for which he said prosecutors were rebuked by a federal judge.

“It’s been 10 years of justice delayed, which is also justice denied,” Burns said.

“The Central Park Five” will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Colonial Theater.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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