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'We are survivors'

Ava DuVernay’s new film ’13th’ explores systematic incarceration of African Americans

By WITW Staff on October 4, 2016

Ava DuVernay premiered her new documentary 13th — a reference to the 13th amendment,which abolished slavery — at New York Film Festival last Friday, and it will be streaming on Netflix starting October 7. The Selma director explained that she originally began the film to explore the prison industrial complex, telling USA Today, “I was always disturbed and furious that more people weren’t talking about the fact that multibillion-dollar companies were profiting off of black bodies and prison,” adding that the Black Lives Matter movement helped by asking people to consider the issue more deeply.

Using new interviews as well as archival footage (including audio and video of the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Philando Castile) the movie explores racial bias from the civil rights era until now, taking stock of the failed war on drugs and the broken prison system.

DuVernay said she ultimately hoped to humanize African-Americans with the film, claiming that “Black trauma is not our life … We are survivors, as many different kinds of people are.” That is why the credits include pictures of African-American children and families smiling, as DuVernay prefers to stay optimistic. “I can be discerning, I can analyze, I can be uncompromising in wanting better, but I am not in a place of saying that we are in the place of our mothers and grandmothers, because I’m a student of history and know that not to be true. There is improvement happening.”

In 2015, Duvernay appeared at the Women in the World New York Summit alongside other prominent women filmmakers and talked about the “radical act” of filmmaking in the male-dominated movie business. Watch the full video of that panel below.

Read the full story at USA Today.


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