New York City will not be able to look at footage and other material from Ken Burns’ The Central Park Five documentary, a federal judge ruled today. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis ruled in favor of Burns’ Florentine Films’ November 2012 motion to quash the city’s efforts to see outtakes, notes and more from the film. “Florentine has established entitlement to the reporter’s privilege” said the judge Tuesday in his 15-page order (read it here) “Defendants have failed to overcome the reporter’s privilege by making a showing that the information they seek pertains to a significant issue and is unavailable from alternative sources,” he added. Burns and fellow filmmakers David McMahon and Sarah Burns’ documentary centers on the wrongful conviction of five youths in 1989 for the heavily reported brutal rape of a jogger in the NYC park. Upon their release, the now-grown men filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city. On October 2nd of last year, the City of New York issued subpoenas against Florentine in an effort to see whether there is material or documentation from the making of the film that could exonerate their officials’ handling of the initial case. “While journalistic privilege under the law is very important, we firmly believe it did not apply here. This film is a one-sided advocacy piece that depicts the plaintiffs’ version of events as undisputed fact. It is our view that we should be able to view the complete interviews, not just those portions that the filmmakers chose to include,” said the City Attorney’s office today after the ruling. City lawyers are considering whether to take a new approach to the matter, their office said Tuesday. IFC Films released Central Park Five theatrically on November 23 and on VOD on December 7.
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren’s potential Oscar candidate Hitchcock hits theaters this weekend in limited release. The AFI Fest opener will launch a platform release before expanding nationally. A possible non-fiction awards contender, The Central Park Five, made news recently as New York City attorneys sought footage in connection with pending litigation. And previous Best Actress Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard won acclaim along the festival circuit for Rust And Bone which debuted last May in Cannes and Thanksgiving weekend.
The Central Park Five
Directors – Writers: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Subjects: Anton McCray, Kevin Richardson, Kharey Wise, Angela Black, Calvin O. Butts III, David Dinkins Jim Dwyer, Ronald Gold
Distributor: IFC Films
CP5 received a flurry of news coverage recently when New York City lawyers subpoenaed outtakes for their defense of a civil suit filed by five men who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. “From the minute we saw the film we felt moved and inspired, and we’ve been consistently gratified as we’ve introduced it at festivals that audiences have been too,” said IFC Films’ Ryan Werner. “It was also the opportunity to work with one of the world’s great filmmakers Ken Burns on his first theatrical documentary in 25 years along with his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon.”
Central Park Five opens Friday in New York at Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center and the Maysles Cinema in Harlem. The NuArt will open the film in Los Angeles the following weekend with additional select markets on tap for December. It is also available via VOD. Werner said “Media attention will hopefully raise the profile with segments on CBS Morning News, The View, David Letterman, Colbert and Charlie Rose to name a few”.
Over a month after the City of New York issued a subpoena against Ken Burns’ upcoming Central Park Five documentary, the filmmaker’s lawyers are formally seeking to quash the city’s efforts. “The City defendants’ sweeping subpoena for nearly all of the video and audio recordings gathered by Florentine Films in its research for the documentary film The Central Park Five is substantially overbroad, premature and fails to overcome the qualified reporter’s privilege that applies to these unpublished, non-confidential newsgathering materials,” said the 27-page memorandum (read it here) filed last week. Burns and fellow filmmakers David McMahon and Sarah Burns’ documentary centers on the wrongful conviction of five youths in 1989 for the heavily reported brutal rape of a jogger in the NYC park. Upon their release, the now-grown men filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city. IFC Films is releasing Central Park Five theatrically on November 23, and the docu will air on PBS early next year; the legal action will not impact distribution plans.
The City of New York issued subpoenas yesterday to Florentine Films to look at footage and other material from the company’s The Central Park Five documentary. Today filmmakers Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns firmly said No. The documentary is about the wrongful conviction of five youths in 1989 for a brutal rape. Upon their release, the men filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city. NYC wants to see if there is material or documentation from the making of the film that could exonerate their officials’ actions handling of the initial case back in the late 80s. The film has played at numerous festivals such as Telluride and Toronto. Sundance Select has picked up The Central Park Five for theatrical release. The film is also scheduled to air on PBS. Read the filmmakers’ statement in full below:
“We have long expected the subpoena,” said Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, the film’s directors. “For the last ten years the City has refused to settle the civil rights lawsuit brought by these young men. This strikes us as just another effort to delay and deny closure and justice to these five men, each of whom was cleared of guilt even though they served out their full and unjustified terms.