For those who don’t have access to Netflix but have been meaning to check out the streaming service’s powerful documentary 13th, you’re in luck.
The evocative film traces the history of racism in America while shining a light on the horrors of mass criminalization and current state of the sprawling American prison industry, as well as its devastating impact on black Americans. It will will be screened at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington on Sunday, Feb. 19 at noon, for Free. The event also includes a discussion by former Newsday columnist Les Payne and radio host Ahmad Ali.
13th is the work of Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma. The documentary is an Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and was reportedly the first-ever such film to premiere at The New York Film Festival on its opening night—an accomplishment that may portend good things come Oscar night.
The film is named for the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which famously abolished slavery and stipulated: “Neither slavery not involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States.”
From Jim Crow to the Civil Rights era and President Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, the documentary follows the meteoric increase of the prison population and the rise of for-profit prisons in the US. It mixes old footage from the Civil Rights movements and other historic events that contributed to America’s era of mass incarceration and interviews with leading activists and politicians as it documents the effects of institutional racism. Perhaps the most jarring scene comes when DuVernay juxtaposes black-and-white footage showing harassment of a black man walking down a street with then-candidate Donald Trump’s rallies.
“I love the old days,” you can hear Trump saying over the footage, which was taken from one of his campaign stops. “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
DuVernay explained last year that playing the Trump soundbite was “vital…because he’s taken this country to a place that is gonna be studied and considered for a long time.”