From the Netflix site: The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “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 criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.
A film like the 13th is not always easy to watch. To see how Black history unfolds is unsettling. But we need to see it and we cannot deny it. We celebrate Director, Ava Duvernay for her brilliance and tenacity in creating this film. Her light shines bright and we appreciate her.
- What are your initial reactions after watching the film?
- The film discusses the power of the media in shaping people’s opinions and actions. For example, the use of the term ‘super predator’ in mass media resulted in an identity shift among people of color. Do you agree that media has a strong influence over the actions andopinions of society? What are some examples you can think from today?
- What was the most surprising thing you learned from the film?
- Did the film change any of your ideas about the prison system in America? Affirm any ideas you already had? If so, in what way?
- Title cards in the film show the steep increase of the prison population from the mid to late 90’s until today. What was your reaction to these numbers?
The above questions were provided by Netflix.They have an entire discussion guide for students and parents to discuss their thoughts after watching the 13th film. It’s a history lesson that should not be missed.