Ava DuVernay's "Now They See Us"
Disclaimer: This show hit me so hard that I came back to my blog after two months away
When you sit down to watch something directed by Ava DuVernay you know your emotions are about to get rattled. Get your tissues ready and grab a pillow because you will want to scream the anger out of you. That’s how it was for me when I first saw her movie “Selma”. Barely half hour in and I was already convulsing in tears and I had to stop watching. Why do these stories mess us so much inside? They do that because we know they’re true. We know they’re real. They might have happened before we were even born and we know they are happening right this minute some place else. Maybe even closer than we think. That’s the power of filmmaking, of Ava DuVernay’s filmmaking in particular.
So I set myself up to watch the entire run of her new mini-series “Now They See Us” in a single day. At the end I was left with outrage and a hell of an headache from crying all those hours while watching this show. And I must urge you to watch it too. Why? Because it’s important. It’s important even if you don’t live in America. It’s important for those mistakes not to happen again. It’s important to learn and to grow. But let’s talk about what makes this a fantastic mini-series.
The story: It’s real. It happened. This alone makes the script already worth paying attention to. A group of young teenage minority boys were arrested as suspects in a crime committed in Central Park where a white woman was violently attacked and raped. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr and Korey Wise where of ages between 14 and 16 and were manipulated and coerced into confessing a crime none of them committed. It explores what people do in order to survive. It explores what the criminal justice system did to all those families and their lives. How these men were robbed of their young lives.
The direction: Ava DuVernay really out did herself with this mini-series. There’s so much to talk about but unfortunately this is not a dissertation so let me just point out my favourite moments that show her work beautifully:
Trisha Meili (the victim) walking through the courtroom, a display of the aftermath of such a brutal crime.
The trumpet scene showing the childhood dreams left behind unfulfilled
The transitions from boys to men, note that Korey is the only one who stays the same (same actor) as a way to show that he was already an adult in the prosecution eyes.
Every time they show (the then not President) Trump - a clear sign that has always held distasteful views which we see writ large today.
The whole sequence about Korey Wise. All of it.
The soundtrack: Not only a selection of songs from those decades, using lyrics that emphasised the momentum but also an original score that captures each scene and especially in the moments where is no dialogue.
A lot more could be said. I could write mountains on this mini-series and everything it says about injustice and all the social norms that allowed this to happen. Just take some time, sit down and give this mini-series your attention. It’s more than just an outstanding piece of filmmaking, it’s going to make you want to make a stand. And that’s what art does. It’s what art should always do.