Twenty-five years after the verdict in the Rodney King trial sparked several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles, filmmakers examine that tumultuous period through rarely seen archival footage.
John D. Barnett
The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation"; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan's declaration of the war on drugs and much more.Written by
Ulf Kjell Gür
Extremely well-made, if one-sided, documentary that takes a look at the 13th Amendment and the mass incarceration that many claims is haunting this country. The documentary takes a look at the prison system in America and we see how the populations in prison have gone up through each of the last five decades. We see the political punches that were thrown by Reagan, Bush and Clinton and how people hope things can be changed.
In today's day and age it's hard to find a documentary that is fair or balanced because filmmakers have a cause when they make movies and they want to throw all of their opinions and facts into what they're trying to push. 13 is an extremely well-made movie and for the first hour it's an extremely balanced movie. With that said, the final half hour goes completely off the mark but we'll get to that in a bit.
As far as the film goes, it does a terrific job at showing the prison system and how so many more people are now behind bars. The documentary did a great job at going decade to decade showing the various laws that opened the prison doors including the "Three Strikes and You're Out" policy and why many people are serving life sentences for minor crimes. All of this is brilliantly told and the way the evidence is laid out was wonderfully done.
With that said, the final portion of the film turns into a more Liberal documentary where the likes of Michael Brown and others are brought up. We're told about how awful this country is and how people of color are being terrorized. Well, we know Michael Brown never had his hands up. Yet that is never mentioned here. We're constantly told about how crime rates are falling yet this documentary never talks about the locations where crimes rates are going sky high. There's no mention of Chicago. The film also fails to really make a point that if you didn't commit a crime to begin with then you won't have to worry about the system. It seems this documentary wants to take away any punishment for those who commit crimes.
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