Centered on race in the US criminal justice system, the film title refers to the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution which outlawed slavery (unless as punishment for a crime). The critically acclaimed film 13th argues that slavery is being effectively perpetuated through mass incarceration.
“Prisons are the new plantations!” may seem like sloganeering from a far-left protestor, but 13th draws a strong, straight line from the abolition of slavery to today’s mass incarceration epidemic, explaining its root cause: money. Cheap prison labor is knotted up in the US economy in many unexpected ways, and the system is designed to get black men into jails early and often.
One of director Ava DuVernay’s most effective sequences, however, is saved for Donald Trump, whose campaign speeches are juxtaposed with brutal clips from the civil rights era. Simpering remarks from his hate rallies about “the good old days” are set against classic images from Little Rock as well as scenes of violence towards minority protesters by his acolytes. These scenes make 13th one of the most effective horror movies in years.
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