When They See Us

Participant Media, Tribeca Productions, Harpo Films, Array Filmworks for Netflix

Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us is a touchstone for its historical moment, a powerful registry of the inhuman practices and degrading effects of 20th-century racial injustice and state violence. The scripted miniseries of the 1989 sexual assault case in Central Park is a probing and sensitive portrait of Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana, five wrongfully accused black and Latino juveniles, and follows the story of each from arrest through imprisonment and finally exoneration. The critical examination and at times biting indictment of the New York City police department, criminal justice system, and prison system that wrongly arrested, convicted, and incarcerated the young men presents an unflinching account of the dehumanization of Latino and black boys and men and the use with impunity of various forms of state violence and authority by city officials.

Presented in agonizing and heartrending detail When They See Us shows the psychological, emotional, and intellectual effects of their ordeal, the monumental courage, the steely determination, and the faith that each of the young men and their families called on to struggle through their ordeal and to prove their innocence. Sustaining a delicate balance between the bone-chilling effects of penal degradation and discipline on the one hand and the deep reservoir of courage and hope on the other, the masterful individual and ensemble performances are a tribute to the power of individual resilience and a testament to the collective work of countless people who believed in their innocence.

For bearing poignant witness to the depths of the individual and collective strength and courage it takes to remain human in the face of captivity and of the soaring imaginations necessary to embody their eventual freedom, When They See Us wins a Peabody Award.


Creator: Ava DuVernay. Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Berry Welsh, Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay. Co-Executive Producers: Amy Kaufman, Robin Swicord. Director: Ava DuVernay. Writers: Ava DuVernay, Robin Swicord, Attica Locke, Michael Starrbury. Editors: Terilyn A. Shropshire, ACE, Spencer Averick, ACE, Michelle Tesoro, ACE. Talent: Jharrel Jerome, Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Aunjanue Ellis, Vera Farmiga, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jovan Adepo, Chris Chalk, Justin Cunningham, Freddy Miyares. Cinematography: Bradford Young, ASC. Music: Kris Bowers.