Friday, 21 October 2016


The history of the United States: framed by education as an alternative, subversive history, reframed by Ava DuVernay as the country's only true history, as legitimate an experience as that of the privileged, those who concocted that education, and far more profound. 13th is a blistering dagger through the heart of blind hope, reminding the oppressed of the permanence of the threat against them and the validity of their discontent, and informing the oppressors of their victims' awareness of their malicious actions. DuVernay must hurtle through her history for the sheer size of it, thus to ever make her point as clearly and forcefully as it demands, but 13th's early sections are diligent in their detail, and necessary in establishing the foundations for the film's principal arguments, themselves already painfully apparent by this stage, and in proposing that this vile legacy be refashioned as the defining characteristic of America's past and present attitudes toward race, rather than as a debatable adjunct. Her approach is gently combative, refusing to imply that change is in effect, not insisting upon a celebration of black identity by restricting her purview to black voices but by expanding it further than expected, wilfully letting contemporary conservatives hang themselves with their own bigoted cords. And for all that they may protest those inferences drawn from 13th's unambiguous suggestion that racism lies behind even the most seemingly benign of sociopolitical policies in the U.S., DuVernay allows them to express it anew, in pathetically defensive to-camera responses that wither in comparison to the bold, unapologetic criticisms put forth by the majority of her interviewees. So, while 13th may be, in essence, a simple CliffsNotes examination of the racism at the core of American identity, it's a particularly compelling and intelligent summary.