New York City wants Ken Burns to give up unreleased footage from The Central Park Five, his most recent documentary about five men who were imprisoned but eventually exonerated for allegedly raping a woman in Central Park, and it's not because officials think they deserve an advance screening; the city hopes it can find something in the filmed interviews to help defend itself against multi-million dollar federal lawsuits filed by the men who were wrongfully accused.
But Burns doesn't want to give up his footage — partially due to journalistic principles (state shield laws allow journalists to protect their sources, although the city is trying to argue that Burns is an activist instead), but also because the city ignored his repeated requests for comment for years.
"We made every attempt, we practically begged to talk to prosecutors and police," Burns said. "One of the things that was stolen from these men was their humanity. In the media they were turned into wild beasts, a wolf pack, and we wanted to return their humanity. We'd have been happy to do the same to others involved, if prosecutors and police had returned our calls for interviews."
Ah, sweet irony — except legal experts say the city will probably get their hands on the tapes eventually.