Photo Courtesy of NetflixDirector Ava DuVernay‘s latest movie, 13th, debuts on Netflix today.
The documentary looks at the history of America’s prison system in relation to black Americans. The title refers to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which barred slavery except as punishment for a crime.
DuVernay tells ABC Radio that growing up where she did led to her interest in the subject of incarceration and its effects on black America.
“I grew up in Compton, around a heavy police presence. Indefinitely, always hyper-aware of the effects of incarceration on my community: folks who were around one day who weren’t around the next day, my friends visiting their brothers on the weekend who were locked up, knowing folks who were on probation and parole and being surveilled and supervised in that way,” she says.
“[I] always knew that I was gonna make a film about it,” she says, noting that her narrative movie, Middle of Nowhere, touches on issues of incarceration.
“But didn’t have designs about making the doc, per se, about the whole kit and caboodle, until I was approached by Netflix, and they asked me, did I want to make a documentary about anything?”
DuVernay found inspiration for 13th in a number of other works, such as Michelle Alexander‘s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
However, she wants viewers to know that while the documentary presents hard-hitting footage and factual information, it’s not an academic exploration.
“This is not a hardcore investigation. It is a tour through a hundred and fifty years of black racism, oppression, and kind of a systemic, insidious process of dehumanization. And so it’s really about bringing in all of those sources into one place and giving it to folks in about 100 minutes,” she declares.
13th premieres on Netflix this Friday.
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