Ava DuVernay says she isn’t surprised by President Trump’s recent comments about the Central Park Five, only that it took him so long to make them.
“It’s expected. I just don’t think it’s that much, it’s not a big deal to me,” DuVernay said Tuesday night at a screening of her Netflix series “When They See Us,” which chronicles the arrest, imprisonment and eventual exoneration of the Central Park five.
“There’s nothing that he says or does in relation to this case, in relation to the lives of people of color, that really has any weight to it or truth to it,” DuVernay continued. “It’s not our reality, it’s not truthful. We already know this, so it’s kind of like, why do we keep banging our head against the wall about it? I’m surprised it took him so long. I was waiting every day to get a tweet.”
Earlier in the day, Trump said he has no regrets about the newspaper ad he once took out calling for the return of the death penalty while the five young men wrongly convicted in a brutal 1989 attack on a jogger in Central Park were on trial. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt,” Trump told a reporter when asked if he owes an apology to the men, who were exonerated by DNA evidence and the confession by the perpetrator. “Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up. If you look at Linda Fairstein, and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So, we’ll leave it at that.”
DuVernay for her part said Trump’s comments are beside the point. “I feel like our focus when we look at this work and hear the stories of these men should be so much more than rage tweeting back, participating in that negativity, which is so unproductive. I wish I had a more juicy sound bite for you, but really, I don’t care. We’ve told the truth of these men. These men are innocent. This crime against them has been vacated, it’s as if it never happened. Now you’re just talking to the wind. It becomes more if we lean into it. So we just refuse to do it. I told their story the way they told it to me, this is what they experienced, these are innocent men, free men, and they should be allowed to be that.”
The event, In Her Words: Spotlight on Women Writers in Film & TV, was put on by Women in Entertainment and the Writers Guild of America West Tuesday at the ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles. The Q&A was moderated by The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill, and also included “When They See Us” writers Robin Swicord and Attica Locke.