DuVernay, who has earned accolades for her beautiful cinematography and vision via films including Selma and The Middle of Nowhere as well as her highly-praised new television series, Queen Sugar, is obviously passionate about her latest project. The documentary shines light on a hot button topic of the day— mass incarceration and for-profit prisons— and exemplifies how the system disproportionately targets black people, particularly men.
Pusha T has been very vocal politically as of late, campaigning for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as recently as this past weekend. Additionally, he recently performed at the #SchoolsNotPrisons Tour to advocate for an end to massive spending on incarceration that is standing in the way of California’s ability to invest in education, health and prevention. In the four minute clip, the rapper lobs questions DuVernay’s way, specifically about why her documentary is so important.
“13th is titled after the 13th amendment of the Constitution,” the director explains. “Everybody knows that the 13th amendment of the Constitution says ‘there shall be no slavery in the in United States.’ Most people don’t know that that is a lie. Because right after it says there shall be no slavery, there’s a little clause, a little loophole that says ‘except if we think you’re a criminal.’”
She says the core of the film is about revealing that mass incarceration is about more than just alarming statistics (there are over 2 million people in prison and 1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime), but about showcasing that there are real people behind the numbers—fathers, husbands, brothers. Additionally, the film provides historical context for the numbers– tracing the prison path for black men from the end of slavery to current times.
“We’re making connections between what’s happening now and what happened then,” DuVernay explains.
13th is currently available to watch on Netflix. You can watch Pusha T’s interview with DuVernay above.