Ava DuVernay hasn’t won an Oscar yet. Her lack of a nomination for her 2014 drama Selma continues to rankle people, especially in a landscape that includes #OscarSoWhite and #OscarSoMale, and while she was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 2017 for 13th it also didn’t win. Now, the Wrinkle in Time helmer is back with a limited series on Netflix that should be more than enough to get her the accolades she deserves.
“It’s just us. Just you and us.” These are the first words in the haunting first trailer for When They See Us, DuVernay’s new series on the Central Park Five. The show follows the true story of the five Black and Latino teens arrested and convicted of rape in 1989 due to racial profiling. The group was eventually exonerated and cleared of the charges in 2002, reaching a settlement with the state of New York in 2014 for false imprisonment.
DuVernay’s painterly eye is on full display, with chilling close-ups on the face of her young cast, many of them newcomers. We watch the group of teens enter Central Park, the lone white woman jogging down a path and the subsequent courtroom drama (with warring lawyers played by Joshua Jackson and Vera Farmiga). The recently scandalized actress Felicity Huffman is prominently featured in the trailer, playing former New York prosecutor Linda Fairstein. You also catch glimpses of John Leguizamo and Niecy Nash, playing parents of the boys.
When They See Us continues DuVernay’s trend of examining the prison reform system, a topic thoroughly explored in 13th. The Central Park Five put issues of police brutality and racial profiling on the forefront of the American consciousness. With issues of racism still raging in our country, and our President’s own thoughts on the Central Park Five being heavily documented (even in 13th), this couldn’t be timelier.
When They See Us hits Netflix on May 31st.