Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
FILM SYNOPSIS: African Americans have continued to suffer since the passing of the 13th Amendment, with popular media demonizing people of color, Jim Crow laws prohibiting real growth and black leaders being assassinated in the 1960s. The politically motivated “war on drugs” penalizes more people of color than whites, and the mass incarceration of blacks in the U.S. has led to a booming prison industry.
No matter how you slice it, 2,306,200 people in jail in the United States as of 2014 is a staggering number, and that’s what director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) does best in her exploration of the CRIMINAL system; providing all the facts and figures in regards to the state of our country and eliciting a shock at the astronomical rise in prison populations over the past century. Along the way, she interviews many knowledgeable individuals about black history in relation to the U.S. government and even shows how many former presidents, like Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr., used lingering black hate in the South to pave their way into office. DuVernay paints a clear picture to support her thesis that the idea of the “war on drugs” was deliberately aimed more heavily at people of color. Whether you support many of the claims in the documentary or not, the one thing that is completely clear is that our government can and does fail and that there are many greedy organizations, CCA and ALEC just to name a few, that become involved with our lawmakers and taint the system. DuVernay ultimately delivers some interesting connections in regards to the abolishment of slavery and a “loophole” in the 13th amendment saying: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
The most memorable portions of the documentary were the look at real people. Kalief Browder, at the age of 16, was arrested in New York on false charges of robbery. He refused to take a plea bargain and was imprisoned without conviction for three years. A few years after his release, he committed suicide. It was said that his mental state was compromised during his detention. Stories like this are heart-breaking, especially paired with an interview with the young man, who spoke so eloquently and stood his ground, doing what he thought was right, and in the end paid an ultimate price. Whether this is happening to blacks, whites, Latinos, or any race, it absolutely shouldn’t be. If someone goes to jail for a crime they did not commit because a stereotype or police fearing their race as a whole, it’s not right. “13th” definitely hits some nerves and causes some frustrations in regards to our government.
What’s its competition? Simply from following the Critics awards and from word-of-mouth in the Oscar blogosphere, “O.J.: Made In America” is the documentary to beat this year. “13th” did show up on a few critics’ lists (Austin, New York, Washington D.C.) but overall, “O.J.” dominated. But whereas the O.J. Simpson trial has been exploited continuously, “13th” actually delivers some new information and makes some really decent points, exploring several different problems in our country that are all current and timely and directly effect us.
Previous nominations? These are the first Academy Award nominations for Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish.
“13th” (2016) Trailer:
// Produced by Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick, Howard Barish // Directed by Ava DuVernay //
// Dated Viewed: Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 // NETFLIX // 46 films – 34 days //