Ava DuVernay’s searing prison documentary 13th has been opening eyes to the racism of America’s prison system since it debuted on Netflix two weeks ago. The justice system has been an enemy of hip-hop ever since the art first started, a fact that Pusha T of The Clipse and DuVernay discussed during their interview about the film via Complex.
DuVernay explained that the film was titled 13th as a reference to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery…unless you’re in prison: “The core of it was that there’s a person in there; somebody’s friend; somebody’s brother, father, son.” It’s an idea that’s galvanized Black people in America since the very end of slavery and the premiere of D.W. Griffith’s Birth Of A Nation, which is where the film starts digging. DuVernay saw friends locked away growing up in Compton, and she doesn’t mince words on where laws that have locked away millions of people came from:
“You and I do the crime, there’s one penalty. Some of our friends in this room taping this interview do the crime, and it’s gonna be something different, God bless ’em. Also, the exorbitant amounts of time that are put on these sentences because these prisons need to keep bodies in there to stay afloat.”
13th digs deeper into America’s prison rabbit hole than most people would be willing to go, placing the blame on hundreds of years of old money racists playing the game of life with a stacked hand. DuVernay’s roots in film stretch back to 2009 when she made the hip-hop doc Compton In C Minor, and her films continued to bring the Black experience to the forefront; all the way to her breakthrough with 2014’s Selma. With Marvel’s Black Panther and the Disney fantasy A Wrinkle In Time on the way, her note – and ours – are only going to get higher.
Give the interview a look above and check the movie on Netflix.