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Film '13th' traces path from slavery to U.S. mass incarceration

Tuesday, October 04, 2016 - 02:56

''Selma'' director, Ava DuVernay, explores the mass incarceration of African Americans in her new Netflix film. Rough cut (no reporter narration)

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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: It has been 150 years since slavery was officially abolished in the United States, but Ava DuVernay's documentary "13th" argues that it is still alive in the form of mass incarceration that it disproportionately affects black people. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution reads: "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." DuVernay and a team of historians and politicians featured in the film say the clause, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," directly relates to today's prison population problem. "The film deconstructs the 13th amendment. Breaks down all of the repercussion, the echoes of that amendment throughout history to the present day. It sounds dry but we try to do it in a way and use the craft of film making to make that an invigorating experience, to make it an emotional experience. The goal is that it is a personal experience," said DuVernay. "By that the time you leave the film, all of these issues that now have big terms like, prison industrial complex and incarceration industry, stop and frisk, mandatory minimums. All the things we've heard for years and years that you - look, this is what it is, this is what it's done, let us show you, let us tell you and let us talk about it," she continued. The film starts with images of "D.W" Griffith's 1915 film "Birth of a Nation," which has been credited with helping the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan and spread a message of white superiority and black segregation, that DuVernay said still has an input on our collective conscious that we still deal with today. According to the film, the current prison population is 2.3 million, and 1 and 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their life. Some of the other statistics highlighted in the film state 'the United States has just 5 percent of the world's population - but contains 25 percent of the world's prisoners.' And 'black men account for approximately 6.6 percent of the population, but make up 40.2 percent of the prison population. The "Selma" director was approached by the streaming network Netflix two years ago and given the opportunity to create whatever she wanted. The Compton, California native said she grew up having a negative relationship with police. "A lot of people grow up in communities where they think of safety when they see the police. The community I grew up in, we don't think of safety when we see the police. And so it's really a different way to grow up. And so it's always been on my mind and as I was an African American studies major in UCLA I was able to put that experience into a historical and cultural context and it really solidified my deep, deep interest in the space and this issue. I always knew I would make a film about it," she explained. The film was well-received at its New York Film Festival premiere on September 30 and received standing ovations at various screenings, which DuVernay hopes is turned into action. "You know can't say, 'gosh, I didn't know that, that's horrible.' Now you know, so what do you do about it. Do you ask your politician about it, do you push for answers, do you think about the way that you treat - or think about that young black man who doesn't dress the way you want him to dress? Do we think about the historical context and architectural of our own ideas? How are our ideas about ourselves and other people were built. That's my hope and now it's out in the world and we'll see what happens." "13TH" will debut on Netflix on October 6th.

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Film '13th' traces path from slavery to U.S. mass incarceration

Tuesday, October 04, 2016 - 02:56