Occupy SMA

By Jim Carey

Monday, Occupy will present the documentary 13th. The title of DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing film refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States ….” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass incarceration and the prison industry in the US is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity” (NY Film Society).

Meeting and Film
Occupy SMA presents:
13th
Mon, Jul 31, 1pm
Quinta Loreto Hotel, TV Room
Loreto 15, Centro
Free

Historically, the seven richest colonies in the US were all Southern slave-owning states. The truth was that the US`s prosperity and wealth were built on the backs of slaves. The states of New York and Rhode Island were close behind, becoming wealthier as their slave traders prospered. Unless you had a Black Studies class, it`s safe to say that most of us learned that “Lincoln freed the slaves” but were taught few details about the events that occurred after that. Charlie Lyne of The Guardian describes 13thas not just any documentary, either: it’s an outspoken, clear-headed, effortlessly damning treatise that joins the dots from colonial America to Black Lives Matter. The film tracks a devastating path from the US Constitution’s 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, to 2016 when one in three black American males can expect to be imprisoned during his lifetime.”

The Guardian’s reviewer Wendy Ide says: “There is something bracing, even exciting, about the intellectual rigor that Ava DuVernay brings to 13th, this documentary about the prison system and the economic forces behind racism in America. The film takes its title from the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery but left a significant loophole. This clause, which allowed that involuntary servitude could be used as a punishment for crime, was exploited immediately in the aftermath of the Civil War and, DuVernay argues, continues to be abused to this day.

There is an understandable anger to this film-making, but DuVernay, who is best known as the director of Selma but cut her teeth as a documentarian, never allows it to cloud the clarity of her message. It’s an approach that reminded me of the fierce intelligence of Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight and Inside Job. Leaning on eloquent talking-head interviews and well-sourced archival material, DuVernay draws a defined through-line from the abolition of slavery, through the chain gang labor that replaced it, through segregation and “the mythology of black criminality,” to the war on crime and the war on drugs, to the rise in mass incarceration and the big business of prisons. The words are so piercing and acute that we hardly need the stirring score that swirls in the background. There is some memorable information imparted: that the US has less than 5 percent of the world’s population and almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.” Join us for this thought-provoking film. Our events are free.

 

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