Essay Example on a Documentary by Ava Duvernay

Published: 2023-01-03
Essay Example on a Documentary by Ava Duvernay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Movie Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1216 words
11 min read

The film is termed as a great tool since its establishment, has continuously changed the experience of humans and how they about life. In particular, a documentary film has frequently called keen attention to problems and social issues. According to film critic and theorist, Bill Nichols, documentaries not only enrich our "aesthetic awareness" but still our "social consciousness" (Nichols 104). Through this enhancement, documentaries often act as a promoter to social change and inciting discussions around important topics. Documentaries prosper in keeping a social change when they successfully capture the audience attention while engaging the viewers in a serious and emotional touch to represent the real truth of the film story. There are three actual ways a film can influence audiences which include; narrative, rational and visual poetics for prompting emotional responses, and building consensus on most debated issues (Nichols 104-104). All these methods are seen in Ava DuVernay's applauded 2016 documentary, 13th.

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A film that involves all these methods as seen in Ava DuVernay's styles of interviewing noticeable figures, regularly using today popular hip-hop songs as changes to reiterate her points and the use of strong footages of real activities making the film's case. In 13th, DuVernay fit in interviews with very many prominent scholars, politicians, experts, civil right leaders, and activist, together with notable opponents. With this diverse variety of voices makes the film more attractive and still add up some level of complexity. For example, a specific individual influential voice may cause insights to the issue of mass confinement and prison built-up complex, again the use of media to criticize the civil right activist, which leads to more repression of these reforms, is Angela Davis. In this film, DuVernay contact on the topic of Bill Clinton's strategies, which damaged society of color, Dr. King, Assata Shakur, and Angelina Davis all of them government persecutors, who are using essential tactics to regulate communities by color.

Adding, DuVernay also comprises voice of key opponents, one of been Michael Hough, who was known as a Republican politician and a member of the (ALEC), which aims at collecting together conservative politicians with integrations to build legislation that helps both parties. When the privilege is made that ALEC had a touch of privatization of prisons, also rising the prison population with the idea of personal profit, Hough claims in defense of ALEC. This addition summed up a layer of credibility since it does not need to dissect the views. Other renowned different in 13th include Michelle Alexander, Liza Jessie Peterson, David Dinkins, and Newt Gingrich. One critic in this review film, praised DuVernay for the various voice she contained and wrote, "This pieced together of smart critical voices may lead the film an immersive quality, absorbing" (Clark 36). In taking inputs from a combination of many well-known and appreciated people, while still acknowledging those on opposing sides, this shows that DuVernay's film is multidimensional and credible.

Another practice DuVernay hires in 13th that is exceptionally compelling is the custom of powerful songs which are sung by black artists, who highly highlights politically charged lyrics. This technique is used to change between different segments in the film and assist to reiterate the theme. Example, a song by Killer Mike is known as "Reagan" as a shift from the theme of Richard Nixon's "difficulties of crime" and "maintaining law and order" that greatly affected the black communities. This song changes the focus to Ronald Reagan's "war on drugs" which is a target for many interviewees who claim strongly on the targeted society of the poor and color, yet increasing the mass of prisoners. At the end of the Reagan era, some particularly persuasive lyrics used from different songs. They announce war on terror, war on drugs, but what mostly entails here is to let the police terrorize the Black Boys why they arrest them and sometimes they pull the triggers. These lyrics are based on abusing the blacks folks and also the brutality of the police.

Finally, another current method Ava DuVernay exploits in 13th is the addition of actual footage of illustrations where African American are being abused, or a case of police brutality as an indication to support the argument of the film. In the entire film, she embraces archival footage from recent and past occasions which relate to the conversation. Most of the clips are heart-wrenching, intense, upsetting, and difficult to watch over, and still evoke strong feedback from viewers. For example, a chilling of a montage of attainable clips at the beginning of the film shows that black folks are mistreated during that time of civil right era. The montage consists of images of black students, black protesters, or any yelled black individual, brutally arrested, shoved around, or arrested by a group of white or the police, for a successful and peaceful protesting, or trying to imitate the actions of the white peoples. This turns out to be a slavery of the black in the midst of the white group.

Another fascinating mixture of actuality footage comes at the end of the film, with clips from the previous times. There tape of peaceful black demonstrators at Donald Trump demos being pushed around, verbally hassled, and even spit on by the people around them, which is commonly on the white side. The movie contrasts clips with the white and black footage of a black person being pushed always from the group of white during civil right protesting. One last convincing use of archival footage in 13th is in the end, with a series that includes raw clips of several recent police acting brutality on severe cases. These sequences reveal that police officers abuses their authoritative power over black by forcing excess force, including guns, thus leading to the death of the black or life imprisonment with tense to mass prison individuals. DuVernay used the 13th footage not to exaggerate these tragic actions but to shed on this issue and make viewers unfavorably about ways on white American has time and still persecuted, disenfranchised, criminalized, and abused the black community.

Through 13th we can see emotional taxes to watch, the film has gained much praise gathering 42 award nominations and 29 overall wins, which includes Oscar nominations and numerous Emmy awards (IMDb). This is essential because it enables audiences to begin involving in necessary and sometimes very uncomfortable talking about how African American is largely criminalized in the U.S. and the problem of mass incarceration, especially targeting the black households. For these many reasons, 13th expressively exemplifies the influence of these documentaries for legislating social changes. It is widely open awareness and dialogue that requires justice and reforms to be attained, and entrancing documentaries offer a platform for doing that.


Clark, A., 2016. Constitutional Crisis. Film Comment, 52(5), p.34.

Juarez, S.E., 2018. The Power of the Documentary: Examining the Effectiveness of Ava DuVernay's 13th. Cinesthesia, 8(1), p.2.

Martin, M.T., 2014. Conversations with Ava DuVernay-"A Call to Action": Organizing Principles of an Activist Cinematic Practice. Black Camera: An International Film Journal (The New Series), 6(1), pp.57-91.

Nichols, B., 2010. What Makes Documentaries Engaging and Persuasive?' and 'How Have Documentaries Addressed Social and Political Issues?'. Introduction to Documentary, pp.94-119.

Stover III, J.A., 2013. framing social movements through documentary films. Contexts, 12(4), pp.56-58.

Telotte, J.P., 2017. ANNUAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF FILM STUDIES-2016. PostScript, 37(1), pp.52-II.

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