AFI Movie Club: WHEN THEY SEE US – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: WHEN THEY SEE US

WHEN THEY SEE US, a four-part series directed by Ava DuVernay, chronicles the story of the Central Park Five, etching empathy for its subjects into every frame and digging past the headlines to find the human faces and lasting traumas beneath. More relevant than ever, WHEN THEY SEE US received an AFI AWARD in 2019 – recognizing it as one of the year’s most outstanding achievements of the art form.

Click Here to Find Out How to Watch WHEN THEY SEE US Now

WHEN THEY SEE US- Reelgood

Watch David Oyelowo announce the film:

Trivia About WHEN THEY SEE US

DID YOU KNOW?

WHEN THEY SEE US is based on a true case, in which five young men – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise – were falsely accused, tried and found guilty of the rape of a jogger in Central Park. The “Central Park Five” had their charges vacated by the State Supreme Court in 2002 when a convicted murderer and serial rapist confessed to the crime.

DID YOU KNOW?

According to Ava DuVernay, an early inspiration for the project was a tweet she received from one of the members of the Central Park Five, Raymond Santana, who inquired whether the story might be a project that the acclaimed director – fresh off the success of SELMA at the time – might consider.

DID YOU KNOW?

While developing WHEN THEY SEE US, Ava DuVernay worked with the support and collaboration of Sarah Burns, co-director of THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, a 2012 documentary about on the same subject. Burns shared her interview tapes with DuVernay, who used them as a foundation for building the emotional narrative of the falsely accused young men.

DID YOU KNOW?

Ava DuVernay had all of the actors meet– and spend time with – their real-life counterparts, in order for them to more fully understand the stakes of the story and the human essence of the people they were portraying.

DID YOU KNOW?

In order to present a balanced and complete account of the case, Ava DuVernay and the WHEN THEY SEE US production team approached researching the project with robust due diligence. This included reaching out to law enforcement involved in the case. Many declined to participate, and, those who agreed to be interviewed, did so off the record.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Did you have an awareness of the case before watching WHEN THEY SEE US? What was the source of that awareness?

– How is racial bias expressed in the U.S. justice system? In what ways does the justice system operate differently for different people, based on their race or class?

-Did WHEN THEY SEE US change your perception of the case itself? Did it change your perceptions of “justice” surrounding widely publicized criminal cases?

-Why do you think director Ava DuVernay structured the story the way she did? How does her story structure influence perceptions of the case? How does the story structure illuminate aspects of the case that might not otherwise have received attention?

-How is the story of the Central Park Five illustrative of broader inequities with regard to criminal justice? How is it illustrative of larger cultural issues of how we perceive crime and punishment?

-In the film, how did law enforcement and the prosecutors use dehumanizing language against the Central Park Five?

-How does incarceration impact individuals, families, and communities?

-What reforms to the justice system would have prevented these young boys from being falsely imprisoned?

-What, if anything, does society owe to individuals who are proven to have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated?

-How would you rate WHEN THEY SEE US?

Watch three members of the Central Park Five – Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise – talk about their experience of being falsely accused in this exclusive AFI Archive video:

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.

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