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Ava DuVernay traces a damning line between slavery and mass incarceration (Netflix)

13th, by Ava DuVernay, links slavery and mass incarceration. Netflix
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Vital, searing, and engaging, 13th — from Selma director Ava DuVernay — is a primer on the historical context and moral urgency behind a lot of today’s most pressing public issues, from mass incarceration and the war on drugs to police brutality and private prisons. It also thoroughly explores the dovetailing motivations behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

The documentary is a compelling whirlwind tour through America’s long history of racism and, perhaps more importantly, America’s long history of denying its racism. It also scored the prestigious opening-night slot at the New York Film Festival in 2016, becoming the first nonfiction film to do so in the festival’s 54 years, with DuVernay becoming the first black woman director to do so as well. (Here’s our review.)

”That’s a lot of ground to cover, and the film can be as exhausting, in its flood of information, as it is exhaustive. But DuVernay keeps it all chugging and churning along, propelled by the force of her montage and the sheer volume of damning, gripping material.” A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club

Release date: October 7, 2016

Streaming on: Netflix

Metacritic score: 90 out of 100