Film, Arts & Entertainment


The Documentary “13th”: Freedom Deferred

Posted November 2, 2017 by qotsm in Film

My first thought about “13th was this is a film by storied director Ava DuVernay, so it’s got to be good. Ms. DuVernay’s reputation as an independent filmmaker of note is huge. Not only that, but also for one of her more recent movies (Selma), she was nominated for an Academy Award. Now, one might get the impression that, by my previous statements, I was less than thrilled with 13th, but that would be wrong. In fact, I was quite smitten with the film. It felt like I was being easily lured in by the film’s rhetoric, into a dark room and all of a sudden somebody hit me in the face with a brick and knocked me senseless…in a good way!

I literally had to consult with my mind after watching Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13t”h, and this after viewing the movie for the second time. Sitting through similar films have always affected the way I look at the world, and the way I look at the society in which I live. But this time, the first and second time, as I watch this film, I’m taken aback by the sheer fact that the 13th amendment to the constitution may have done more harm than it has done good. What comes to mind: oppression; violence; racism; etc.

So what do I want to say to you about the kind of impact this documentary may have on your personal psyche. Well, much of what I watched in this offering, I had grown up seeing, or read about and sadly, experienced. These things weren’t foreign to me. The nuance was in how it was presented, along with how the images and information married coherently into a fine body of work. Let me say this, many people that view this film will come away upset and confused. Others may come away with a great urge to focus their efforts toward activism and protest. Yet still others may find it offensive and untrue. All this to say your psyche well definitely be impacted. How much, of course is relative.

What is “13thabout? It’s about the loopholes in the 13th amendment of the United States constitution linking slavery to criminality and incarceration here in America. Ava DuVernay stated in an interview with Black Tree TV (Published on Oct 3, 2016) that one of the purposes for doing this documentary was to get the viewers to “interrogate the way you think about race” and “think about your place in this puzzle, this race problem whether you’re black or white”. DuVernay provides us with the information to open up a dialog, which is long overdue. It’s not so much a call to arms, but more a way to bring additional information to the forefront and try to influence people to be more proactive when it comes to their lives in hopes of helping cure some of society’s ills. It’s also a defined look at how we as black people in America are perceived, and how we as a race are treated.

Granted, after watching this movie, I was inspired by the tone of the film and the new information that has been brought to light about the 13th amendment and how many African Americans have been taken advantage of and been imprisoned because of it. As you look at “13th”, keep in mind all those people incarcerated for crimes, regardless of their severity, who were given harsher sentences than what should have been mandated, especially those who were innocent. With that said, you may want to also consider, how many were not innocent of crimes. I found myself looking at the “glass half empty and half full” scenario here. After seeing the film, I wonder what your perceptions will be and what you feel the director/producer, was trying to convey.

Finally, what’s my take on this film as a whole? I’ve never been much on documentaries. No matter how many facts are presented, in the end they are still largely subjective. Here’s what I’d like to say about “13th. This is an important film. Ava DuVernay’s vision has captured so many of the wrongs, not only to the black (and brown) community, but our entire country. She’s help start the conversations we should all be having. I’m not a political person by nature, but maybe I should be. If we want change, then we need to get actively involved toward effecting that change.

Can we as a people, and I mean the American people, truly come together and have a dialog about the 13th amendment and other nonsensical biases and prejudices that continue to cripple and weaken our country? I don’t know. What I do know is this movie “13t”h most definitely is worth the watch….and soon.

Gregory Morgan

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