A Different Perspective

The Spotlight: “When They See Us” Film Series By Ava DuVernay


Hi all! How are you doing? Welcome to a new episode of The Spotlight! I am so glad to have branched into reviewing TV series and Films now on this platform. I guess, this platform is more than just about blogging and books, but about the things that consume my mind and give me cause for pause.

So, one of my readers suggested that I watch the new Film Series on Netflix, When They See Us, about a month ago. I’d just dropped my review on Lucifer. I figured it was a serious film and something I’d need to concentrate on, so I wanted to be in the right frame of mind to watch it. I really didn’t know when I’d get round to it, I mean, no one is paying me to watch film and review oh! I had lots of work to do, lots on my reading and writing lists too. But, I saw a few posts on social media that made me more curious, and I decided to take the time last Sunday to start watching the series.

When They See Us is a true story about five young boys – Raymond, Kevin, Korey, Yusef, and Antron – who, by virtue of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, were accused of, charged with, and convicted of the rape and assault of a white woman, who had been jogging at Central Park, New York on April 19th, 1989. They were called the Central Park Five at the time and following their conviction, but in 2002, after serving between 6 to 14 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, these boys, now men, were exonerated of all allegations when the real perpetrator confessed, and were released to be able to get their lives back. They are now regarded as The Exonerated Five and were recently interviewed by Oprah, following the release of the four-part series on Netflix. They appeared with essential members of the cast and the creator of the film, Ava DuVernay.

I really didn’t know anything about this story before I started watching it. However, from the blurb, it was predictable that the young boys, whose lives were being depicted in the series, were about to have the most horrible theft happen to them. I cried as I watched it all happen, wishing it wouldn’t. Wishing the people doing this to them would stop and reconsider. Wishing their defense would have brought their A game and thrown the whole thing out. Wishing I could re-write history.

But, it was painful, seeing it and knowing that this REALLY happened, to five CHILDREN, and knowing that it is still happening. Because they were black. They were minorities, and the system wasn’t built to protect them and their rights.

I was angry, and I was even afraid. I dreamt about the film after the first day, when I’d watched the first two episodes. I felt their entrapment, like you can’t think, talk or plead your way out of this. Everything you say and do is being twisted and used against you. They don’t care about you, they hate you, they would kill you if given the chance. What do you do? I felt these emotions, as if it was happening to me, wondering what I would do should I or a family member suffer such misfortune. And to think it was “justice” they were after.

There was no justice! Not for the woman who was brutally raped and left for dead. Not for the other women who suffered her fate because the criminal was still at large, while these fools were on a campaign to pin it on African-American and Hispanic children, who they KNEW were innocent. I know that in their hearts they knew! They disregarded all the evidence in their witch hunt, and they did it with venom, not caring for justice.

It really hurts now to think that even after the real criminal confessed, they tried to say he was number 6 and continue to vindicate themselves. It hurts that even now, they want us to consider that these five boys were actually criminals, simply because they were at the park on that fated night. There were 30 or so boys “wiling out”, a term confused to be “wilding out”, and a lot of people got injured. But they lost their chance to get justice for ANY OF THEM!

They didn’t seek to solve those crimes, but to destroy these boys lives. Maybe if they had sought out justice, they would have been able to find those who did these things. But to assert that even if the boys were innocent of the rape, they were still or could still have been criminals, as this post I read on thebulwark.com seems to insinuate, is just vile!

The article by Cathy Young, posted 24th June, 2019 at https://thebulwark.com/the-problem-with-when-they-see-us, is titled “The Problem With When They See Us”. I read the whole thing, and I was like, why are people like this??? Yes, they made some valid points, about how the film will stir up old emotions of racism and may cause a major falling out, not just on those directly involved in this story, but on the apparent peace between the races that have been forged over time. But this film exposes the truth about that peace and the true hatred that still exists in the world for people of colour.

The problem with this article about the problem with When They See Us is that they failed to understand what When They See Us is really about. How the American Criminal Justice System, from the police interrogation to serving time in prison, is corrupt! They failed to see the domino effect impact that such injustice would have had and did have on the boys/men involved, and the women who were left to be abused by Matias Reyes, the real criminal, and the continued operation of these criminals (Linda Fairstein and crew) that masterminded and served this injustice cold, and may never get their justice served! And they dare to say that the victimised men were presented as if they were totally innocent!

Are you serious?! Are you totally innocent yourself? Maybe someone should investigate you, Cathy! Those boys were bullied, tricked, beaten and abused into making false confessions. If there’s any question of integrity here, it’s on the officers who interrogated them unlawfully!

Since I finished watching the film on Monday, I haven’t stopped researching this issue, reading up on what happened and is happening now, and just trying to show my support for Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise (4 +1 as he prefers it to be known). Korey, who had only gone to the police station to support his friend, was victimised the most in all this. Being 16 years at the time, he was tried and persecuted as an adult, and spent almost 14 years in several adult prisons in America. He was disconnected from his family and everyone, from the day he set foot in that police station, because they couldn’t afford bail or the trips to visit him in prison.

Watching his own story about his time in prison, before the truth came out, is just heart breaking. It seemed only one guard showed him grace. And eventually, the villain became the hero, when he met Korey in prison and had compassion on him, deciding to confess and let everyone know he did his crime alone! But villain he remains, because he was part of stealing the lives of these men, and has stolen from every woman/child/person he has abused. Thankfully, he remains incarcerated, though he may be released in 2022.

About the film… It was well-produced, well-acted, well-portrayed. Deeply emotional, moving and revealing. God bless Ava, NetFlix and everyone who got behind these five men to help them tell their story to the world. No amount of money is enough to erase all that has been done, to redeem what was stolen or to heal all that is broken. Only God can, and He will… If not in this life, in the next.

I had feared that one of them would have taken their lives in prison, not having known about the story before watching, but I am so glad they lived to see their names cleared and beyond impressed at the strength and love they have shown, despite how they have been victimised over and over. Everyone needs to watch this series and pray for how to respond, and then ACT!

Photo credit: http://www.pixabay.com

If you liked this post, you might like THE SPOTLIGHT: A REVIEW ON “HALF OF A YELLOW SUN” BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

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