REVIEW: 13th (2016 – Documentary)

Release Poster - Netflix
Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a quick review of Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th – a Netflix Original Documentary.

Previously, I have written about documentaries on this blog, and if you look at the scores that I’ve given films, you will notice that I’ve given scores to some documentaries. But I rarely review documentaries on this blog, even if I love certain documentaries like Alex Gibney’s Going Clear or Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour. Today, though, I’ve decided to review one, and it’s extraordinary. You have to watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

“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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” – Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section One.

Ava DuVernay’s 13th focuses on the criminal justice system, racial segregation, and mass incarceration. It points fingers at the system as a whole, the thirteenth amendment, organizations, politicians, former US Presidents, as well as presidential candidates.

In 13th, select political commentators, politicians, educators, and professors analyze the amendment in question, before describing how political legislation, non-profit organizations, and the media have all contributed to the unhealthy state of the criminal justice system, as well as a history of racial oppression.

13th has a clear voice. It will be eye-opening to some and affirming to others. It is, without a doubt, incredibly powerful. It is a must-watch documentary film. It is brutal, brutally honest, and it doesn’t pull any punches when discussing people from both sides of the aisle.

It will anger its audience, but also bring some to tears. When I saw it I was both angry and devastated. It is both important and powerful and comes at the right point in time. By being a Netflix Original Documentary, DuVernay’s 13th also has the opportunity to be viewed by a large group of people. If you have a Netflix account, then you have no excuse. You have to see it.

You have to see it. Even if it can be exhausting in its impressive analyses and explanations. Even if you are already registered to vote in the 2016 US Presidential Election, even if you know who you want to vote for, even if you’re a happy Republican or a happy Democrat. You have to see this documentary. You have no reason not to.

9.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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