13th: Ava DuVernay’s Powerful Docu–Opening Night of N.Y. Film Fest

13th is the title of DuVernay’s new, eagerly anticipated non-fictional film, which serves as the opening night of the 2016 New York Film Fest.


Our review of the film will appear tomorrow evening.

Chronicling the history of racial inequality in the United States, The 13th examines how our country has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of those imprisoned being African-American.

The title of DuVernay’s film refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States . . . ”

The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass incarceration and the prison industry in the U.S. is laid out by DuVernay with bold and poignant clarity.

From D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the rebirth of the KKK to the Civil Rights Movement, the 1994 Crime Bill, the rise of ALEC, and the Black Lives Matter movement, DuVernay traces a pattern of fear and division that has consistently driven mass criminalization.

The docu mixes archival footage and testimonies from leading voices, including:

Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Angela Davis, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Craig DeRoche, Shaka Senghor, Malkia Cyril, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

There is also crucial evidence from a group of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men.


Nominated for two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, writer/director Ava DuVernay’s most recent feature Selma was one 2015’s most critically-acclaimed films.

Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director Prize for her previous feature “Middle of Nowhere,” DuVernay’s earlier directorial work includes “I Will Follow,” “Venus Vs,” and “This is The Life.”

In Fall of 2016, her first television series as executive producer, writer and director, “Queen Sugar,” debuts on Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN.  DuVernay distributes and amplifies the work of other people of color and women directors through her film collective ARRAY, named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Hollywood for 2016.