How to Write The 13th Documentary Essay: Free Paper Example
The 13th documentary, directed by Anne DuVernay and released on Netflix in 2016, provides an in-depth look at the United States prison system and how it reveals the history of national, racial inequality. DuVernay's new work, The 13th (which is a well-known amendment to the US Constitution), again raises the issue of slavery in the United States. Only now is this slavery practically legalized in correctional institutions, where people are treated worse than animals if these people are black. The film argues that even after accepting the thirteenth amendment, the United States still faces the criminalization and oppression of the minorities through the police actions and other forms of discrimination.
To understand the context of the movie, one needs to know the text and specifics of the Thirteenth Amendment. Its text consists of two sections:
Section 1. 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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Reading this text, the audience may ask themselves, "What happened?" Why did so many dozens of years have passed since the civil war, and is there still a problem with the race and the justice system in this country? Unfortunately, a part of this amendment is used as a loophole. When Lincoln meant this amendment to be enforced equally and fairly, industrial corporations quickly used this part of the law to criminalize black men. Thus began the prison industry. They were arrested and imprisoned for an obscene amount of years for a dumb crime like litter where any white person would be given a hand. The corporation saved money on the sweaty backs of innocent black men. They were not only imprisoned for the petty crime but also added hefty fines so that they could not be released on bail from prison.
That's what I knew about. But I was so surprised that after so many years, after the civil war, after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, all that "changed" was nothing. Slavery was merely beautifully redone. When someone is imprisoned here, their right to vote is taken away. Blacks are still planted for a long time compared to whites for petty crimes like possession or smoking marijuana. They are set on bail at a much higher price, one young guy was arrested, put him in jail where his jailers were beaten continuously. He was convicted of a crime that he did not commit, knew this, and set him on bail of ten thousand dollars. They gave him a plea bargain, saying that if he lies and says that he was a criminal, they will let him go. That is, he had to commit a moral crime against his clear conscience to be released from prison for the crime of which he did not commit. A few years after his release, this young guy killed himself.
Since slavery was banned, they have to pay for the work. Since they have won civil rights, they cannot be called niggas. But, you can call them criminals. Criminal, it's a secretive word for a nigga. Honestly, I think that poor Lincoln tosses and turns in his grave seeing how his law is treated, which he himself wrote and fought with Congress to push this law into the amendment. It appeared that freedom is not free. The film left me shocked, opening the eyes on the history that I have never thought about. It analyzed all the actions and laws of the former American presidents to show how the political power continued suppressing the minors despite the legislation that should have protected them. It showed how the economics of the United States developed in such a way so that there could always be room for expansion and use of people who cannot protect themselves. Finally, it highlights the core differences among the minorities and the "regular" Americans: a similar crime can be interpreted and punished in two totally different ways, considering the criminals themselves. This is the reality where people continue to live, despite the talks about tolerance, equality, and rights for everyone.
What shocked me the most was the fact that this modern slavery is not the product of evil corporations and racist politicians. It is not even the effect of police impunity and cruelty. The biggest problem that I see in the world described by DuVernay (and the world we actually all live in) is that it is natural for the majority of people. We rarely think about the principles of justice, thinking that any criminal should be imprisoned, while never actually analyzing the mere of punishment and the personality of the criminal. We do not often check the statistics on the punishment of black people, Latinos, and white Americans, even though it is available for everyone. Even after checking the shocking difference, we seem not to care: everybody feels secure in the current world, neglecting the rights and the feelings of those people who continue to be oppressed in the world, which shouts about toleration and imprecates racism. The film by DuVernay perfectly depicts this world through the animation where the word "freedom" first turns into the flying birds, then — into stars and stripes, and finally — into the slavery ship, which is a sad truth that should be understood by everyone.
While being astonished by the way the director interprets an illustrious history, leading to the conclusions that we all subconsciously understand but avoid admitting, I was also partially disappointed by its ending. Many critics praise the movie for its honesty and willingness to highlight the problems of minorities discrimination in the modern United States, which is accurate; however, as for me, the film at the same time puts questions, not willing to provide any answers. The author keeps her position on highlighting the problem without any attempts to figure any solution to the problem. Even though it is not obligatory for the director to provide both the problem and the recipe to solve it, it would create a massive call to action if DuVernay provided at least a partial way out. Instead, she focused on the problem, pointing on the problematic world we all have to live in, leaving the audience with no clues on what to do next. As a result, I am afraid, it will be left in the lists of Oscar nominees, failing to catch the audience's minds for a long time. Therefore, the main goal of the film — to change the reality which neglects the freedom in its essence — is not reached, which makes the movie weaker, despite having a strong narrative and horrifying examples.
All in all, like many other documentaries, The 13th is an energetic and catchy story about the atrocity of the modern world, which seems to be peaceful and tolerant at first glance. However, focusing on such a problematic area, the director could increase the impact of her work by suggesting the steps that can be taken by everyone to change the situation as it is the responsibility of the whole nation to guarantee equality and freedom for each and every individual.