“13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay, is a thought-provoking 2016 American documentary film that delves into the complex issues of the prison-industrial complex and the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. The title refers to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery except as a punishment for conviction of a crime, creating a loophole that perpetuated involuntary servitude for black Americans.

DuVernay examines how slavery has persisted post-Civil War through the criminalization of behavior, leading to the forced labor of poor freedmen under convict leasing. She also addresses the suppression of African Americans through disenfranchisement, lynchings, and the Jim Crow era, as well as the impact of the war on drugs and mass incarceration on minority communities, particularly African Americans.

The documentary sheds light on the profit-driven motives behind the prison-industrial complex, highlighting the financial interests of corporations in perpetuating incarceration. “13th” has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. It won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.

During the George Floyd protests in June 2020, “13th” experienced a significant surge in viewership, reflecting its continued relevance and impact on public discourse.

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