On the heels of co-producing and writing the television show Queen Sugar and in the midst of taking on the adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time, director Ava DuVernay is exploring a heavier, more political topic: mass incarceration in the United States.
Netflix released the trailer for DuVernay’s upcoming documentary, The 13th, today which gives us a brief glance of what we can expect. Named for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the film explores the shady, corrupt prison system and the systemic oppression of African-Americans—specifically men. Ultimately, equating incarceration to modern-day slavery. DuVernay talks more on the topic and the film with New York Magazine, stating:
There’s a clause in our Constitution that still allows for slavery to exist. Because we don’t live in a “slavery” era, folks don’t embrace imprisonment for what it is. But there’s an exception to the 13th Amendment, which literally permits slavery “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” And from that criminality clause arose a societal behavior, a collective consciousness about who was a criminal. More often than not, the folks labeled criminal were people of color. In particular, black men. We explore everything from the reasons why the link between race and criminality was manufactured to how it’s used for profit and power and political gain, all the way up until the current day.
The documentary includes footage and interviews from activists, politicians, incarcerated men and women, and more, who help show a timeline of the black man’s transformation from slave to criminal. The film will open the New York Film Festival this Friday (making it the first time a nonfiction work opens the event), and Netflix users will be able to watch it October 7. For now, check out the trailer below.