Movie Name: 13TH
Studio: Kandoo Films
Release Date(s): September 30, 2016 (New York Film Festival)/October 7, 2016
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
The 13th Amendment emancipated the slaves…but did not solve the problem of freedom. With a system of repression put in place, minorities in the United States were put in a position to fail. As the criminalization of drugs rose and prison population skyrocketed, the situation separated families and increased the racial divide. The problem of freedom is only getting greater and the need to fix it is becoming imperative.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, 13TH (also sometimes called The 13TH) is a documentary looking at the racial divide in America primarily through the abuse of the prison system. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival and was later released on Netflix to critical acclaim. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
13TH is a disheartening movie to watch because you can’t see any solution to the problem. You know it is there, you know that there are some ways to deal with it, but you know that it will never be done…as presented by the movie itself. It becomes a teaching piece with a lot of important issues for viewers to learn but little that they can do to help.
The real tragedy of 13TH is those that need to see it will never see it and if they will see it, it will be written off as propaganda. The movie is a documentary with an agenda (much like Michael Moore’s stuff), but like Michael Moore’s movies, there aren’t really any good takeaways as a way to combat the problem. Reform the justice system…but does that mean decriminalizing all drug use? While I don’t believe all drug users are bad and many are victims of the system, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad drug dealers…and then the matter comes on how to decide who is bad and who is good.
What is amazing about the documentary is how many people come together in it and admit the mistakes that were made. The documentary, despite being something that would seem “anti-Republican, is actually hard on both parties…particularly Bill Clinton’s presidency which enacted the “Three Strikes” rule that gummed up the system even more. You get people that you didn’t expect to see in the documentary like Newt Gingrich next to activist who both say the same thing…the system is royally screwed up.
Since the documentary has an agenda, you do have to be a little wary and even skeptical about the presentation. The spokesperson for ALEC comes off as completely ignorant, but it also feels that it is from some editing. I always get concerned when I see editing like this because it blurs the lines of reality.
13TH is very frustrating, and it is a frustration that isn’t going away. The pushback against the movie and the results of the election show that many aren’t willing to look at the problem or discuss problem. It does go both ways in that sit-down logical discussions have to be discussed between the groups and that doesn’t seem to be happening. Ties to Black-Lives-Matter also complicate the situation in that many don’t understand and cannot understand the two (or even more) separate Americas that exist within the United States…the freedom to simply walk down the street without being watched with suspicion is something that minorities probably unattainable because it can’t be understood by people who don’t deal with it on a daily basis. 13TH ultimately tries to explain this but the message, like so many others, will not be received despite the growing unrest.