Friday, October 7, 2016

13th Review

I'm not sure if the filmmaking and construction of the new Netflix Original documentary 13th by Ava DuVernay is as impressive as the picture's urgency and importance, but that's not meant as a slight towards the craft considering how urgent and important it is. This is a film that is demanding to be heard and it hopes to have a intelligent conversation with its audience, but behind the message and the images used to convey it you can hear the screams of so many just begging for the world to open its eyes and and ears, to see the truth and listen to their pain. While the ignorant are tagging their social media posts with #AllLivesMatter with a sense of artificial compassion, as if they are the only ones that care about humanity, maybe take 100 minutes to sit and watch 13th and finally be willing to listen as to why Black Lives Matter matters so much.

The essential premise of 13th comes from the notion that mass incarceration that stemmed from the preposterous "drug war" that began in the 1970's was really nothing more than an extension of slavery, and this was in some way confirmed by an aide to Richard Nixon himself when a decades old interview was published earlier this year in which he admitted that the escalating crack down on drugs was meant as a system to target blacks and anti-war hippies. In 1970 the prison population in this country was roughly 300,000 inmates. In 2014 it stood at roughly 2.3 million, and while only 6.5 percent of the population are black males, they make up over 40 percent of those currently wasting away in tiny, windowless prison cells. From the plantation to living each day behind bars, the greatest shame of our nation lives on even today.

Perhaps 2016 is the year of the documentary for me, as I sit here in October having seen over 100 films from the year and 2 of my top 5 are vital works of non-fiction. Typically I am far more likely to fall in love with imaginative fiction-based storytelling and genre filmmaking, getting lost in the magic of ingenious people making the impossible possible, but right now feels like a time when it's crucial to stand up and raise a fist in the air, to give a shit about the tragic nature of the reality that surrounds us. Ava DuVernay said in an interview that making 13th was a very emotional experience, having to go through so many hours of traumatic footage and decide what to use to create a film that was exactly what she envisioned it to be. "I cried a lot making it", she said.

I cried watching it and I thank her for making it. To anyone out there who has tried to speak rationally and reasonably to a world that doesn't want to listen, I hear you. I hope with each passing day more and more people start to hear you too.


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