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.
Plot: Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) may have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, but the fight for racial equality is far from over, which is proven again when a bombing of a predominantly black church kills four girls and injures others or when a woman in Selma, Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), is denied to registrate for voting, only the latest of many attempts of hers to do so. King makes voting legislation his next big topic, coming to Selma to start his campaign of civil resistance that is supposed to culminate in a march from Selma to Montgomery. But before things get that far, a lot of stuff has to happen first.
Of all the biopics I’ve recently seen, Selma was by far my favorite. The story is amazing, wonderfully told and the cast was absolutely mind-blowing.
Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) has devoted her life to her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick). She gave up medical school to be able to be near him and only counts the days until he gets out. But after four years of imprisonment, Derek is a changed man and he might still have another four years of incarceration to go. When his parole hearing is coming up, putting Ruby under further financial strain to hire a lawyer, things get even tenser. That’s when Ruby meets bus driver Brian (David Oyelowo) with whom she connects. Now Ruby has to start making decisions for her own life and not the lives of others.
Middle of Nowhere is a calm, slow film that doesn’t tell a grand story of world-shaking events but rather shows the everyday difficulties Ruby and women in her position face which is a very important thing to do and to see. It’s beautifully done, touching, excellent film.