Documentary Reviews

Ava Duvernay’s Telling Documentary ’13th’ Is A Biting Look Into Race And The Role It Plays In America’s Prison Systems – Documentary Review

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As history seems to repeat itself in a cyclic fashion, it was only appropriate that the director of such a powerful film like Selma would strut her stuff in giving audiences an even more profound look into the bigotry against blacks and African-Americans in the United States. With any documentary based on social issues you are going to get a side of the story specific to what the film maker wants you to see. Whether you agree with that side is your choice, but one thing is for sure, you will be swayed either way through a powerful subject that comes shooting itself out a fact lit canon. Duvernay, an African-American woman herself, clearly feels strongly on subjects of this magnitude, and with such a polarizing election that has since found its president-elect to be more questionable in the eyes of many people across the nation, this documentary seems to only shed a perspective that many people have tried to share, but with little success until now.

The beauty of the documentary is that it’s narrative begins and ends clearly and evidently. Without hesitation, Duvernay throws the facts at you with interviews from esteemed professionals in their respective fields as they present their cases like lawyers to a jury which happens to be us. Her recruitment of such well spoken individuals of all backgrounds of life proves to be precise and melodic with each sentence they speak oozing with passion and intelligence rather than venom and fire. Instead, they compliment their clear diction with information that not only teaches us what the hell is going on with American prison systems, but the correlation of bigotry against blacks with our 13th Amendment which supposedly abolished slavery.

The delving into of history of past presidencies as well as the significance of the 13th Amendment are presented strongly and firmly like a soldier at war on battle lines that just happen to be our own streets. The shock value from things we want to believe to be extinct strike you like a slap in the face only it comes in the form of clanging metal bars or the locking of handcuffs. The statistics don’t lie and the videos seem to only back it up. The heartbreaking visuals of blacks being hosed or attacked by dogs will always stir emotion in your heart, but with such a visceral edit of a voice over with Trump spewing hatred towards blacks at a rally makes the documentary solidify itself within minutes while the audience can squint in disappointment.

I can’t say where you should or shouldn’t be after the documentary ends, but I would hope you at least find value in a different perspective other than your own thanks to facts that can back up what is become an alarming statistic regarding our private prison systems, and the ethnic correlations that follow. It’s a documentary that you should feel some type of way about and if that way is anger or sorrow then the documentary has done its job. It’s a biting conversation piece for the thinkers and open minded souls out there who should be compelled to realize the error of the situations at hand. The documentary makes sure to eloquently illustrate for us with each passing scene that the horrors of racism and slavery have manifested themselves in ways the naked eye can’t always see unless you’re experience it. Duvernay challenges you to see through the eyes of someone other than yourself to let you know that there is still a problem with race and discrimination in this country in more ways than one.



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