|13TH (director: Ava DuVernay; screenwriter: Spencer Averick; cinematographer: Kira Kelly/Hans Charles; editor: Spencer Averick; music: Jason Moran; cast: Angela DavisCorey Booker, Van Jones, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Michelle Alexander, Charles B. Rangel, Newt Gingrich; Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Howard Barish/ Spencer Averick; Neflix; 2016)|
|"It's a lively film that demands
answers about what we mean when we say we want
"law and Order"."
by Dennis Schwartz
Celebrities, historians, activists, former prisoners, academics and politicians tell their version of black history, with nothing new here but a lucid reiteration of how the end of slavery gave way to the Jim Crow south, the KKK and black chain gangs. When D.W. Griffith's arty silent The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, it struck a chord with a large sampling of white people as it revitalized and romanticized the KKK and confirmed white fears of the black man as a rapist of their women.
The documentary forges ahead to modern times with alacrity to include LBJ's voting rights bill of 1965 as a positive step in civil rights but not an end to systemic racism. It then tells how Nixon's southern strategy was used to gain white votes by using his fight against crime as a code word that blacks are largely criminals who need to be punished. President Reagan upped the ante in the fight against crime by carrying out a real War on Drugs that arrested many blacks; while President Clinton's 1994 crime bill increased the funding for prisons and enforced mandatory long sentences. Clinton's crime bill was a failure, that even he admitted while on the campaign trail for Hillary.
DuVernay, an activist filmmaker, wants us to believe slavery is an institution that won’t go away because the country's racism has become more subtle and is linked to the inequality in our justice system. Some of the observations are spot on, but some are too simplistic to be swallowed whole without further research and debate. But it's a lively film that demands answers about what we mean when we say we want "law and order." In an homage to the Black Lives Matter movement, it concludes with graphic videos of various black men being shot by police under questionable circumstances. But it doesn't show footage of some of their more violent members urging cops to be targeted.
REVIEWED ON 12/10/2016 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ