’13th’ Review – A meticulously timed documentary

’13th’ Review  – A meticulously timed documentary

This searing 2016 documentary highlights the deliberate criminalisation of African American citizens, and the ways in which institutionalised racism has transformed the nature of politics, incarceration policies and the overall African American fight for freedom in the United States of America. 

Through the assisting prompts of archive clips from the likes of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, we grow horrified at the examples of such institutionalised hatred and racism, whilst feeling simultaneously relieved that these tales of horror are no longer the case. 

Its title, 13THrefers directly to the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery, and it is this that the hour and a half watch rests its retelling of police brutality, political corruption and public abuse upon.  The history of the systematic suppression of African Americans is told in a loosely chronological fashion: documenting the abolition of slavery as the precursor to the immediate re-categorisation of African Americans from freed slaves into second-class citizens. Through the assisting prompts of archive clips from the likes of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, we grow horrified at the examples of such institutionalised hatred and racism, whilst feeling simultaneously relieved that these tales of horror are no longer the case. 

We are shown raw, terrifying and, most importantly, recent videos of unnecessary police violence towards black citizens, reminding us of the Alton Sterling shooting earlier this year.

Yet, through this time scale, DuVernays meticulously timed documentary begins to reveal to us just how much history is repeating itself: shown through the examples of public abuse of African Americans at Donald Trumps political rallies, and the parallelisms they harbour to famous clips of African Americans being chased through the streets by white racists during the 1900s. We are shown raw, terrifying and, most importantly, recent videos of unnecessary police violence towards black citizens, reminding us of the Alton Sterling shooting earlier this year. The vulgar and unnecessary police tactics shown through these videos leave us with anger, and the resolution to protest for change. 

In this way, this incredibly important piece of film is translated from one which merely showcases the history of the fight for black freedom, to a piece which illustrates the cases of racial hatred and violence that are on the rise once more. This integral narrative on the attack of African American citizens is most definitely one that demands action.

Emily Moscrop

Image courtesy of Netflix 

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