watch the trailer for ava duvernay’s netflix doc about american prisons and racial inequality

The documentary will become the first non-fiction film to open the New York Film Festival on Friday, ahead of its Netflix debut and limited cinema release.

by Charlotte Gush
27 September 2016, 1:23pm

The first trailer has been released for 13th, a new documentary from Selma director Ava DuVernay about incarceration and racial inequality in America. The trailer arrives ahead of the film's premiere at the New York Film Festival this Friday, when it will become the first ever non-fiction film to open the festival.

Described as a story "150 years in the making," the title is a reference to the Thirteenth Amendment, which made it unconstitutional to hold someone as a slave — but with an exception made, for criminals. "The loophole was immediately exploited," a commentator in the trailer tells us, explaining that following the era of black slavery there was a "rapid transition to a mythology of black criminality" in both cultural and political life. The documentary includes footage of blackface criminals from old movies alongside Hillary Clinton's 1996 "super-predators" remark about young gang members.

The film investigates the "horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry;" the trailer notes that one out of four imprisoned people in the world are held in US prisons, the supposed 'land of the free.' A disproportionate number of those people are of African American descent. The trailer features the story of Kalief Browder, a black 16-year-old boy who was arrested for robbery and held in prison without conviction for three years, two years of that in solitary confinement. Browder later killed himself, prompting calls (including from Barack Obama) to address the overuse of solitary confinement in American prisons.

'13th' premieres at NYFF this Friday. It will debut on Netflix and open in limited theaters on October 7.


Text Charlotte Gush

Ava DuVernay
New York Film Festival