Director: Ava DuVernay
Running Time: 100 mins
13th is an American documentary about the prison system in the United States and its role in keeping the nation’s history of racial inequality and oppression alive.
This is a really fantastic film. Beyond a purely insightful and informative look at the US prison system, 13th is a powerful account of repression and injustice and its roots in history, all the way up to the modern day. Complete with gripping interviews, historical archives and analysis, it’s a fascinating and hard-hitting watch all the way through.
There’s so much that makes 13th such an enthralling watch, but it’s fair to say that director Ava DuVernay really shines here, bringing stunning cinematic qualities to the documentary format.
Along with her immense passion for the subject matter, DuVernay styles 13th perfectly, blending objective and fact-based analysis and information with strikingly cinematic and powerfully effective narrative structure and style.
In that, 13th teaches you so much about the history of its subject matter while delivering a powerful analysis of how that history impacts society in the modern world, but in such memorable and eye-catching fashion.
From the film’s brilliant pacing to its deep underlying passion, as well as the use of historical archive footage to tell a narrative, as well as on-screen graphics to clearly highlight recurring themes and ideas, 13th is in your face the whole way through with powerful dramatic and historical resonance.
Couple that with the wealth of riveting, insightful and passionate interviews and accounts given by scholars, historians, members of black liberation movements and more, and 13th becomes the ultimate exploration not just of the American prison system, but the modern history of black oppression in the United States.
The significance of its assessment of the modern prison system and the hyperuse of ‘criminality’ as a tool of social control is difficult to understate, and the film gives a thoroughly convincing depiction of how the system has been able to revive the racist and oppressive trends of history in the modern day.
Overall, 13th is an utterly enthralling documentary that proves informative, insightful and deeply powerful throughout. Its blend of gripping and objective history with immense passion and exhilarating cinematic style make it a hugely memorable watch, and one that’s difficult to take your eyess off, which is why I’m giving it an 8.2.