Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Movie Review: "13th" (2016)

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Director: Ava DuVernay
Year: 2016
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

A documentary that looks at the history of black Americans, from slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, to becoming the primary population of the US prison system. 

"13th" is Ava DuVernay's exposé on the history of oppression towards black Americans. DuVernay covers a lot of ground, beginning with the struggle started during the time of slavery, and continues through to politics as they are today. DuVernay also delves into the past and current prison system in the US and the disproportionate population of black men that make up the US correctional system, now known as the prison industrial complex. This documentary examines how a caveat in the 13th amendment allows criminals to be used for slave labor, a loophole readily used by post-Civil War southern states to keep black Americans enslaved by arresting them for minor offenses. From there, DuVernay looks into Jim Crow laws and segregation in the pre-Civil Rights era to the use of economic policies to keep certain sections of the population as second class citizens.

None of the claims presented in "13th" are based on wild hypotheses. All of these points are based on well researched facts, sometimes straight from the horse's mouth. A member of the Nixon administration is literally caught on a tape recording discussing how certain policies and political rhetoric were implemented and formed as a type of oppression against black people. It's staggering to hear these words being spoken by someone who worked inside the White House. This film also focuses on laws like mandatory minimum sentencing, the three strikes law, and the privatization of the prison system that has led to massive overcrowding in prisons across the country, referenced by the fact that one in four prisoners in the world are now imprisoned in America. DuVernay delves deep into the organization called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and its relationship with lawmakers, as well as how their corporate agendas alter and influence our policies and laws.

"13th" is brilliantly made, informative, well researched, engaging, and enraging. It is educational and heartbreaking. It will force people to stop, think, and reevaluate what they know about politics, prisons, police, and the very foundation on which our country is built. Sometimes, documentaries can get a bit tedious, but not in this case. We found ourselves completely captivated from beginning to end. Director Ava DuVernay goes over a very substantial amount of history in a very short amount of time and does so flawlessly, never hammering the audience with anger or fear, but merely presenting the information in an honest manner with facts, interviews, interesting musical choices, and written infographics that flood the screen in an overwhelming amount of pain and truth. Everyone should watch this stellar documentary at least once. It's not only one of the best documentaries of the year, it's also one of the best films of 2016.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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