So what has Ava Duvernay been up to since 2014's Selma? Well, she's flirted with some big studio projects, including a couple over at Marvel, and directed the upcoming OWN Network series, Queen Sugar. But she also apparently shot a very timely documentary titled The 13th, and it's ready to go because it will open this fall's New York Film Festival.
The film gets its title from the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, with the film centers on its modern day ramifications, especially in light of the staggering incarceration rate among African-Americans. Archival footage featuring the civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, and the Ku Klux Klan will be used alongside interviews with ideologically-opposed subjects such as Newt Gingrich and Van Jones,
The decision to open the festival is a major gear switch, but NYFF Director Kent Jones makes a convincing case why this is a good time...
“While I was watching ‘The 13th,’ the distinction between documentary and fiction gave way and I felt like I was experiencing something so rare: direct contact between the artist and right now, this very moment. In fact, Ava is actually trying to redefine the terms on which we discuss where we’re at, how we got here, and where we’re going. The ’13th’ is a great film. It’s also an act of true patriotism."
The film was shot largely in secret as there has been practically no press surrounding it over the last year or so. Here's what DuVernay had to say to New York Times about her decision to tackle this particular subject now...
“A certain part of our population has been demonized for the benefit of private industry and politicians, and a lot of forces that have nothing to do with, quote, ‘keeping people safe." Once you know why we’re here and how we got here, we’re on more solid footing to walk ourselves out of this deep valley that we found ourselves in. That’s the hope.”
The New York Film Festival runs from September 30th to October 16th, but you can check out The 13th when it hits Netflix on October 7th. Check out the film's synopsis below.
From D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the rebirth of the KKK to the Civil Rights Movement, the 1994 Crime Bill, the rise of ALEC, and the Black Lives Matter movement, DuVernay traces a pattern of fear and division that has consistently driven mass criminalization. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimonies from leading voices, including Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Angela Davis, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Craig DeRoche, Shaka Senghor, Malkia Cyril, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.