Friday, November 04, 2016

13th (2016 film)

Directed by Ava DuVernay and written by DuVernay and Spencer Averick, 13th is a documentary about the 13th Amendment in U.S. Constitution where a loophole has been exploited allowing authorities to incarcerate African-Americans into prison. The film is an exploration of the amendment’s loophole as well as the complicated history of race relations in America that has led to race riots and such while showing that not much has changed since the American Civil War in the 1860s as it relates to race. The result is an absolutely sobering and terrifying film from Ava DuVernay.

On January 31, 1865 just a few months before the American Civil War ended, the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed that simply abolished slavery from the country but there was a loophole that had been exploited into many years. The loophole states that while slavery is abolished unless an individual has committed a crime and has to be punished. More than 150 years since the American Civil War has ended and yet not much has changed as much of the prison population in America is filled by African-American men as it’s total population is more than 2 million. What Ava DuVernay reveals through interviews from many college professors including the famed Civil Rights activist Angela Davis plus some politicians including Newt Gingrich is that not only has slavery reinvented itself into something far crueler in the prison system but also what the police, political leaders, and even those in corporate America will do to keep slavery alive inside the prisons.

With the interviews shot by its cinematographers in Hans Charles and Kira Kelly, DuVernay doesn‘t just get a lot of perspective on the history of the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s but also ended it in some ways despite the fact that the Civil Rights bill did allow African-Americans to vote and have the same freedom as any other American. Many of the interviews are quite straightforward but DuVernay reveal a lot of things are quite chilling as it relates to the racial inequality that is going around in America since the aftermath of the Civil War. One of the big references that DuVernay and many historians/professors cite is D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation which was an astronomical film when it was released in 1915 yet it gave the public the idea that African-Americans are seen as rapists, criminals, and animals rather than human beings. Some say the film help resurrect the Ku Klux Klan as well as create the Jim Crow laws of segregation.

It wasn’t until the 1970s when Richard Nixon was in power that he implemented the idea of law and order that would put more African-American men in prison that would continue to unimaginable heights in the 1980s under the Ronald Reagan administration as he used the war on drugs as a way to criminalize poor African-Americans from inner cities for using crack as they would get more punishment than someone buying powder cocaine. Leading this war on drugs was the first lady Nancy Reagan as a former congressman revealed that the intentions were good but it showed how bad it become. While Bill Clinton in the 1990s would create something that would eventually cause more trouble by his own admittance years later as it increased the prison population drastically. Especially as once the U.S. entered the 21st Century, it should be noted that this is a country that is really a capitalist country in the worst way as even something like mass incarceration can become a business. Leading that is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who has been using their influence in politics to create new laws to help increase criminalization in America.

Though ALEC has tried to change its ways in recent years, there are still a lot of problems as DuVernay also reveals through stock footage, previously aired footage, and old interviews with the aid of editor/co-writer Spencer Averick about the ideas of what men with corporate ties want to do. It goes back to the days of slavery where one of the reasons the economy in the South was so profitable in the first half of the 19th Century is slavery. One notable sequence which showcases an African-American man beating harassed and beaten just as he’s walking the street by white men and then cuts to African-Americans beating hit in the face at a rally for a certain Presidential candidate who wants to spout the ideas of going back to the good ol’ days.

With the aid of sound mixer Jeffrey Perkins creating some audio montages that include some very scathing comments from a member of Ronald Reagan‘s election campaign in 1980 about what to say showcases the ideas of what Republicans would do to get votes from the African-American community while having some ulterior motive. The film’s music by Jason Moran is superb for its chilling score that has these ominous electronic textures with some orchestral flourishes that play into the damage of what has happened to African-Americans as well as the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement which is becoming very important. Music supervisor Tera DuVernay provides a fantastic soundtrack that is a mixture of traditional music and hip-hop as it says a lot into the state of the world and the cruelty of the American government in its treatment of not just African-Americans but also Latino and immigrants.

13th is an outstanding film from Ava DuVernay. It’s a film that isn’t just shocking in terms of how little progress America has made towards race relations but also engrossing into a world that is unstable while there are those who are willing to make changes to make this country a better place for future generations to come. In the end, 13th is a tremendous film from Ava DuVernay.

Ava DuVernay Films: (This is the Life (2008 film)) - (I Will Follow) - Middle of Nowhere (2012 film) - Selma - (A Wrinkle in Time (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2016


Anonymous said...

Brilliant film. Just saw this earlier this week and I'm still processing just how this could have happened. Progress my a@@, which is such a shameful thing to realize.

ruth said...

I can't wait to see this and I'm glad it's on Netflix so it's easily accessible. It's incredulous how race relations hasn't really come that far after all these years. It seems that every day we hear news of unfair treatment of people of color.