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Study Guide

Central Park Five

The Story | People | Artists | Art Forms | Enrichment Activities

The Central Park Five was a collaborative effort between Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah, and her husband David McMahon. Ken Burns says, "It defined our lives." All three filmmakers conducted some of the interviews, and during the editing process they debated and discussed what direction they wanted the film to take.

Ken Burns
Writer, Director, Producer[more]

Ken Burns is one of the most celebrated and well-known documentary filmmakers of our time. He was born in Brooklyn in 1953, and graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Over his 30-year career, his projects have included The Dust Bowl, Prohibition, Baseball: The Tenth Inning, and many other documentary series and films. For him, "race is at the heart of this national narrative, whether we want to admit it or not." He says that no matter what subjects he tackles in his work—whether it's baseball or jazz, Mark Twain or the Civil War—they always seem to boil down to two things: race and place.

Sarah, Ken, and David have given many interviews about making the film, which you can explore for deeper insight into the project and process at "The Family Business" and "Director Interview" and "About the Filmmakers" .[/more]

Writer, Director, Producer[more]

Sarah Burns worked on The Central Park Five for over a decade. It was her passion project. Sarah teamed up with her father and husband as producer, writer, and director of what would become her first film. She believes it's been "a real learning experience from the filmmaking side of things, but I think that it's all about the story. The most important thing in a good film is finding a good story to tell." The team is working together again on their next project, which is about Jackie Robinson. Sarah and David live in Brooklyn with their daughter.[/more]

Writer, Director, Producer[more]

David McMahon has worked with Ken Burns on a number of acclaimed documentaries as a producer and writer. He also worked with PBS's public affairs series Frontline and at National Geographic Television and Film. David was in charge of the day-to-day aspects of making The Central Park Five. He says, "Ultimately The Central Park Five is about human dignity. It is about five young men who lose their youth but maintain their dignity in the face of a horrific and unimaginable situation." He grew up in Clarence, New York, and graduated from the University of Michigan.[/more]