Trying to fall in love with film again.

13th is a documentary that everyone needs to watch.

Netflix documentary “13th” is a must-see – The Maine Campus
13th is a documentary that was released on the 7th of October 2016 and it's a poignant one. The premise is simple. It looks at the 13th Amendment of the American Constitution and explores how it plays a role in race relations, the justice system and mass incarceration.

The 13th Amendment was passed by the Senate on the 8th of April 1864 and by the House on the 31st of January 1865. Its purpose was to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude except in the case of a felon. Here's an excerpt of the constitution...
"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."
When you learn about the 13th Amendment in a historical context, it's seen as a shining moment in America's history as it abolished slavery and it is, however, this documentary shows that it ended one problem but created another. Sure slavery was no longer allowed but then a system was created where African Americans were seen a lesser than their white counterparts and that system has evolved from Disenfranchisement in the Reconstruction era, Jim Crow, the war or drugs to the mass incarceration system that we see today.

What this documentary is trying to tell us is that even though slavery has been abolished, it hasn't gone away, it's been given a facelift. What the 13th Amendment says is "you're a free man, endless you're a criminal." In an hour and 40 minutes, Ava Duvernay is able to show how racism in America has evolved and how the loophole in the 13th Amendment has allowed the prison system to use free manual labour for profit.

There are many things to take away from this documentary, one of them being, how the system looks at people of colour primarily Black and Latino people. How they have been branded as criminals through political rhetoric like the war on drugs and films like Birth of a Nation which shows the KKK as heroes. (yup you read that right) You see archival footage of past presidents talking about Law & Order and how it would be endorsed but you also see how it is enforced to the detriment of the black people that it was supposed to protect.

There are also alarming statics throughout the documentary.
For white men, the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment is 1 in 17. For black men... it's 1 in 3.
Wait, there's more
Black men account for 6.5% of the US population but account for 40.2& of the prison population. 
  It's statistics like these that show the unfair treatment of black people throughout American history. From the lynchings in the mid to late 20th century, to the number of deaths as a result of police brutality today.

13th resurged in the public zeitgeist a few days ago and for good reason. The last half an hour explores police brutality and given the news the past few days it is very hard to watch and left me on the verge of tears. Watching the video of George Floyd's murder, hearing him repeat, "I can't breathe" over and over again and then seeing the exact same thing happen to Eric Garner shows that George Floyd was not a one-off thing. I have seen people trying to justify his arrest saying "Oh if he just followed the law, this wouldn't have happened" but that isn't true. There have been too many cases like George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castle, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, Freddie Gray, Jason Harrison, Laquan McDonald, Eric Courtney Harris and so many others that I haven't mentioned.

That is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important. It is a way to protest the statistics I mentioned above. To protest the murder of unarmed and innocent black men, women and children that I see on the news and on social media. And that is why I will support it wholeheartedly.

One of the most shocking juxtapositions in the documentary occurs around the 1hour 20 minute mark and it involves then-candidate, now President Donald Trump. He said the words "I am the Law and Order candidate" and tweeted this a few days ago...
Hearing (and seeing those words) and with the juxtaposition of what his law and order show that his version is very much in line with what was prevalent in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era. I mean the man tweeted and I quote "When the shooting starts, the looting starts."

Presidents from Nixon through to Bill Clinton used Law & Order as a political stance and while what they were saying might have appeared to be politically neutral and for the benefit of all Americans, history and current statistics have shown that it is not the case. And that is why this documentary is poignant. It came out in 2016 and everything that was said in the last half an hour has been shown in the last week. From the power of the cell phone video and its ability to shock people into action, to the power of social media and its ability to give a collective voice to movements like #BlackLivesMatter. Some of the biggest riots in the history in the United States has been a result of police brutality and we are living through it right now. We are seeing the consequence of decades of unfair treatment and racism. The riots and protesting are not new but this time they can't be ignored.

From a filmmaking standpoint, 13th is stunning, its editing and use of animation, music and archival footage makes it captivating to watch. You hear from historians, activists and political analysts on their views, findings and experiences. And while the subject matter is a heavy one, the documentary doesn't feel long or weighed down. I was surprised at how quickly the time passed.

13th is a great way for one to educate themselves on what is going on. And while it may not have the answers it will make sure you understand the root of the problem. Here's a quote that really stuck with me.
Having people truly understand that when Black Lives Matter, everybody's life matters including every single person that enters this criminal justice system and this prison industrial complex. It's not only about black lives, it's about changing the way this country views human dignity. 
That right there is a definition of the Black Lives Matter movement. We are not saying other lives don't matter but until black people around the world are not unjustly murdered and prejudiced for the colour of their skin, then all lives cannot matter.

Netflix posted the documentary on their Youtube and made it free to watch. You can watch it here.



If you want to support the Black Lives Matter movement in any way you can raise awareness, sign a petition and donate if you can.


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