Ava DuVernay's striking, fascinating documentary focusing on the way the "war on crime" has been used as a tool of oppression, is a must watch. Most of us walk around without much of an understanding of the processes of institutional racism and dog-whistle politics. For many of us how this film exposes this phenomenon will be so shocking it will be impossible to accept. Even for many who us who are aware and have resisted from minor to major ways will find it terrifyingly illuminating. DuVerynay is a powerful film maker, with a strong voice and a beautiful means of story telling. Her style here is perfectly matched to this argument. She nails it, bringing all the horror of this to vivid life.
One of the greatest challenges of modern democracy, is how complicated issues are decided by popular opinion by those who often have little to no information on the subject and understand issues on a simplistic level. For example; criminals are bad and our safety is at risk. This is such a gross oversimplification that it takes exhaustive attention to understand all the problems with that. Voters don't have time for that. Politicians have to respond to ignorant voters who often are getting overly simplistic jingoistic messages from rich corporations who stand to benefit from their ignorance.
So much of what makes 13th work is hoe DuVarnay brilliantly breaks this down into digestible pieces. Her eye, visual style, brings this into focus. She makes a highly watchable movie. Therefore audiences can understand the message, even if it is for the first time.
13th is important because it is speaking to an issue which is reaching a certain zeitgeist but also because it is an issue that clearly is not getting the attention it deserves. This is a must watch as we move forward into what kind of culture we want to be complicit in.