“13th” is a Netflix documentary film written and directed by Ava DuVernay, director of 2014’s Oscar-winner, “Selma”. This film is about the 13th Amendment, the amendment that abolished slavery, but specifically a sentence within that amendment that indirectly set up 150 years of racism in the United States.
This is the first documentary to ever open the New York Film Festival, and Ava DuVernay did terrific work on the issues of race in “Selma”, so I was very excited to see what she can do in a documentary-style film about such a potent topic.
The style in which DuVernay decides to tell this story is incredibly unique and works exceptionally well. From the way the timeline is spaced out to the use of different songs and graphs to really bring the points home, DuVernay does tremendous work at making the facts easy to understand, and while also making them increasingly effective.
Some people may not be totally on board with some of the things that DuVernay starts going into here, but the way that she presents these ideas, with sheer conviction and visceral energy, she is able to really paint a picture that will not easily be shaken after viewing.
The journey that we go through, from back in the 1860s up to the modern times and then back and forth afterward is done so elegantly and is done in a style that everyone can understand. We quickly understand the importance of this extra clause from the 13th Amendment, while also feeling completely heartbroken in the process.
Not many movies this year have hit me emotionally as much as I would have wanted, but “13th” hit me more than I could ever say that I ‘m hoping for. This film is an emotional fireball that does not give up for a second. This movie doesn’t waste any time getting right to the facts and right to what went wrong, and it doesn’t let up until the very end. Watching true stories and true facts about exactly what it has been like to be an African-American in this country through these past 150 years was, to me, a constant punch in the gut, and I left (my couch, because this is a Netflix original) a completely broken down individual, and that’s the highest praise I can give “13th”, believe me.
While I can go on and on about just how much this documentary means to me, and just how well done the whole film is, what I think I most important here is just how potent and absolutely necessary this movie is. This is a film that should be shown for years to come, as it is an incredibly powerful, emotional piece of art that really puts events into light about our criminal justice system, police brutality, and simply racism at its core, each of which just as important as the next. Some may not enjoy the two-minute attack on Donald Trump that this movie has to share, but I believe it is one of the most powerful moments of the film, and really puts some of his “questionable” actions into perspective.
“13th” is, right from the start, a well told, poignant, fresh, while also disturbing look at a load of topics all stringing from this single statement in an amendment made 150 years ago, and it is everything that it had to be, and more. I cannot commend Ava DuVernay enough for her work here, as it is a documentary that I believe will be a benchmark for years to come. Everyone should watch this film, from classes in school to your friends and family, from liberals to conservatives and everyone in between, this movie shows that this topic is bigger than any one person. I cannot say I have left a film this year more impressed than I am with “13th”, as this is a powerhouse documentary, one that has left me truly in wonder.
You can watch “13th” on Netflix, streaming now
What did you think of “13th”? Comment below with what you thought.