Ava DuVernay set out to make a film about the prison-industrial complex. 25% of the world’s prison population is USAmerican, although only 5% of the world’s population is. People of color are disproportionately imprisoned. And prisoners are used for cheap labor for which they barely see any money. But in her research, DuVernay discovered more and more, how tightly the USAmerican prison system is tied to the 13th amendment to the constitution: the amendment that abolished slavery, but left a backdoor open: as a punishment of crime, slavery and involuntary servitude are still permitted.
13th is a fascinating, well-structured and incendiary film. It’s pretty much a perfect documentary: delivering a slew of information in a way that never gets overbearing and connects different islands of knowledge to show the underlying structure of inequality.
There were a few things I was aware of: that prisoners had to work for practically no money, the privatization of the USAmerican prison system. But I was not aware of the amendment loophole, nor of the clear connection between it and the prison system. DuVernay really proves herself as a documentary maker as she makes these connections easily and clearly.
The film is packed with information from one end to the other and features interesting experts on the topic (in fascinating settings) who make their points well. It’s intense – but in yet another testament to DuVernay’s abilities as a filmmaker, it never gets too much and it’s always easy to follow the argumentation.
And honestly, the entire thing is so fucked up. Listening to it all, I couldn’t help but think that it would probably be best if you tore down the USA as a whole and rebuilt it from the ground up. There is so much corruption and injustice embedded in the very foundation here. Once more I’m very glad that I don’t live there.
13th really is a great opportunity to learn and to get very, very angry. But most of all, to understand better what’s happening in that country and has been happening for such a long time.
Summarizing: Watch it.