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13th

Wow! This is a very power documentary that describes how the prison pipeline was created in the United States and how it has served to result in the highly disproportionate incarceration rates of African Americans. The title refers to the 13th Amendment, which states: “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”. Ava Duvernay, who directed the powerful Selma, uses a combination of archival footage and interviews with civil rights era activists, historians, and formerly incarcerated men and women to tell a story about the factors contributing to the number of incarcerated persons increasing by 700% between 1970 and 2012; the US has the largest incarceration rate by far of any Western and Eastern European country (nearly double that of the next closest country, Russia). While I have seen the stories in various pieces, I have never seen the history put together as impressively as in this film. There is a powerful choreography of speeches by Trump juxtaposed on archival footage that is jaw-dropping. Huge thumbs up for a film that should be considered essential viewing for anyone wanting a brief and compelling history of race relations in the US.  It also shows in a compelling way why groups such as Black Lives Matter arise and why they are so important; movements like these do not happen for no reason nor in a vacuum.

About Gary Burkholder

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