13th Review


  Now that the day in which the fate of America shall be decided  for better or worse, I’ve chosen to review Ava DuVernay’s intelligent analysis of the 13th Amendment and race politics throughout the history of America.  What 13th does is intelligently track the way America has maintained the idea of slavery in it just under different names. Looking at the evolution and morphing of slavery under the criminal system, 13th provides us with relevant and important commentary about the way our nation continues to criminalize the black population because that is what it has been doing since the slave era. The 13th Amendment is still a milestone is American history, but what 13th does is look at how people have cheated the ideas of equality that America sets forth by corrupting the 13th Amendment into something its entirely not.

      DuVernay’s way of structuring this documentary is essential to its functionality. She almost formats it like an essay, firstly presenting you with the bold statement and horrid truth about America’s penal system and mass incarceration of the African American community and following that with historical proofs that prove her central argument. DuVernay analyzes every era of American history from the abolishment of slavery to today, identifying a branch of the argument in each that she exposes to the viewer. What she’s basically doing is finding a quote that supports her main argument in each American era. She starts off her first argument by going back to 1915 and dissecting D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. From this cinematic pioneer, we are introduced to the root of the problem, America’s view of the black man as a criminal or animal that must be tamed. In Griffith’s film we watch a segment that depicts a white man in black-face attempting to rape an innocent looking white Southern woman who ultimately commits suicide over having to face this black menace. Its brutal to watch such a bigoted depiction of African Americans today and that’s exactly what DuVernay was going for, she presents us with that awful scene and then tells us that very scene represents how most of the American population feels towards blacks today because the words black and criminal have virtually become synonyms during the course of American history.

       DuVernay then takes an analytical look at various every American presidencies and how they’ve misconstrued the criminal system into another form of slavery.  She especially focuses on the war on drugs and how the criminal system unjustly targeted minorities in their efforts to stop it. DuVernay accumulates argument after argument on top of each other, to a point that the viewer becomes enraged as he comes to the realization of how slavery never disappeared from America and has actually adapted to the times, tricking us into believing it was gone when the African American community is still being treated inferiorly even though its 2016.

         As for DuVernay’s stylizing of the documentary, she does some pretty cool stuff by incorporating rap in tiny animated segments that summarize each argument DuVernay makes. At the beginning I felt it was a bit out of place but by the end I was feeling it and really liked how it complemented each investigated era in a way that resembled that of memorizing a song to remember what you’ve studied. I must say that the film does get a bit tedious at times with DuVernay devoting too much time for certain segments that we’re nothing but echoes of past arguments. Something that I found really odd from DuVernay is the way she decides to end 13th. The reason I say so is because she does in the most abrupt manner possible, randomly cutting to black miliseconds after someone provides a strong bold statement that requires reflection, but instead you only get a list of names rolling down the screen.

        Although the film might get a bit tedious at times, it never ceases to be relevant and informative. DuVernay does a fantastic job encapsulating the stress and rage of the African American population that has been basically treated as slaves for what feels like an eternity. She analytically investigates the metamorphosis of slavery’s meaning throughout the evolution of American times. 13th is a necessary watch for America’s population today as it stresses the division that’s been created by ourselves in our society. DuVernay’s 13th is an intelligent, important film that truly investigates the problems of America and its relation to the African American community.


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