13Th is a documentary about the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality, as stated on IMDb's database. It starts exploring slavery and how African Americans were treated, showing the scarred back of a man who had been severely beaten over and over as a slave. And let's get past the, some slaves were treated well, yeah, they may have been, but hey, they were still slaves so were they really treated well? There is a movie, part of the silent film era, titled THE BIRTH OF A NATION (no not the one from a year ago), that shows a man in blackface attacking a woman and then being killed without any type of justice or judgement. He is killed and proved guilty because he is "black".
Next the movie goes to show the beginning of the criminal system and chain gangs. The country moved from slavery to slavery of a different type with prisons and people being punished without pay.
The movie then moves to the time of segregation, and how we move from keeping men and women in literal chains to virtual chains. Separation of Caucasians and minorities didn't stop harsh punishment and actions against minorities. Yes the movie focuses on the plight of the African American, but all minorities were segregated and punished for being born anything but Caucasian. The movie touches on the murder of Emmett Till and the lynchings of the 1950's and 60's. The destruction of Emmett Till played into the ending of the movie as the people interviewed were asked do we need more images out there to shock people. One of the reasons Emmett Till's mother allowed an open casket for public viewing was for the world to see what had been done to her fourteen year old son. It shocked the nation to see his battered and unrecognizable face. And it should have.
After this the film makes a point of exploring the prison system and how from 1950 to today the incarcerated has grown so large, that there are over two million people incarcerated at this time, and this does not count the immigrants being held in detention centers as they are not considered prisons. America has a broken system in place as people who are charged with first time offenses are now, depending on the offense, stuck in prison for life without the possibility of parole.
The movie focuses a lot on poverty stricken communities, but the end does admit that the prison system, the entire corrections system is broken. To fix it we need to get out of the business of corrections and into creating more chances for rehabilitation, and restructure the time that criminals have to spend vs automatic sentencing.
I readily recommend this movie. It not only shows a side of the government that people often don't think of, but it also shows a lot of things to make all races think about how we are treating each other, and why.