Ava DuVernay’s ‘13th’ Opens to Standing Ovation at New York Film Festival

New York Film Festival 2016 opening
Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock

Ava DuVernay’s “13th” opened the 54th New York Film Festival with a jolt of topical urgency, shaking up tradition as the first documentary to kick off the festival and addressing head-on the issue of mass incarceration and its historical roots. The crowd at the premiere screening rose to its feet when the credits rolled — and then did it a couple more times after that: once when the lights came up on the filmmakers, activists and academics involved in the film, and again when DuVernay appeared for a brief talkback after the movie.


The 13th

New York Film Festival Review: ’13th’

Heightened security measures, a reaction to the Sept. 17 bombing in Chelsea, made the opening the first in recent memory to involve bomb-sniffing dogs and security wands. Famous faces including Oprah Winfrey, Common and Don Lemon turned out for the film, which confronts issues at the forefront of the current political conversation: race, inequality, the fallout of slavery, police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

“This moment, this Black Lives Matter moment, it’s not a moment. It’s a movement,” said DuVernay on the red carpet before the film’s world premiere (in words she would later echo when she addressed the crowd in the theater). “People thought, ‘Oh, will it last?’ Well, it has lasted. It’s changed things. It’s forced candidates to talk about things that they did not talk about in previous elections. It’s opened people’s minds. It’s changed art-making. It’s changed music. People are seeing things through a different filter now.”

In another mark of the movie’s topicality, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make appearances. “It’s fitting that this film is opening up the film festival, and I wish it would close it as well,” said CNN anchor Lemon. “Because these are the issues that are going to help decide this election. The next leader of the free world, this will be at the top of their list.”

After the premiere, Common, who wrote an original song for “13th” (and won an Oscar for the song he co-wrote for “Selma”), performed a set onstage at the afterparty at Tavern on the Green, where the outdoor spaces were tented to shield partygoers from the rain, and a familiar crowd of producers, critics and publicists stayed past 1:00 a.m.


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  1. Ava duvemay should do a documentary film here in. Suffolk county long island ny. Racism grows rapidly here. Their r 1% of blacks on the police force,correction officers,etc! This is why our black young men turn to the streets. With a college Education we still have to say yes ma’am yes sir to our white bosses to get or keep our hi paying jobs. Working in nursing homes is also slavery repeating itself with a salary. Most white people put there old age parents in nursing homes. We wash their butts. We are treated like slaves. You can count the number of black residents on one hand in a 200 bed facility. Being a CNA is hard work However it pays the bills. For most African American’s

  2. I am so grateful, thanks Ms duvemay! I haven’t seen 13th. I will see it on the 20th via Netflix. You took the thought out of my head and brought to realization. I’m a single mother of 3 incarcerated men ranging from age 22_28. They presently reside in nys jails. We live in Suffolk county ny. The system was designed to keep our young black men incarcerated. The incarceration time they give our black men for selling drugs is inhumane. Sexual predictors. Murders get less time. Here we face money talks then u walk. Most African American inmates don’t have enough money to pay a private attorney.they r given court appointed attorney. They work for the system not the inmate. However, a paid attorney mostly Caucasian r friends with judge,ADA,etc. We AA ppl have to pay thousands of dollars to try and stay out of jail. Attorneys and judge’s make deals on the golf course. If u no what I mean! Most of our black men and women here in Suffolk county N.Y. that are incarcerated are innocent innocent. I would love to start a organization here let my people go! Again thank you.

  3. tlsnyder42 says:

    This is pretty stupid. Because of the anti-police, unjust falsehoods of Black Lives Matters and other socialist, leftist loons, more blacks are being murdered in the streets. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s friends at Planned Parenthood and other abortion “providers” are committing more genocide against black babies. Why doesn’t Ava make a documentary about that???

  4. jona says:

    Sounds like a lot of BS form the usual suspects. She couldn’t tell the truth if her life depended on it.

  5. Michael Anthony says:

    I’ve read a few reviews and am perplexed. Oit of all the current issues and problems discussed, is personal responsibility one? I also have issues with BLM, since some chapters don’t allow whites to participate or talk, but allow them to march in front, so they r arrested first. (Mpls chapter, for rxample). Also, the direct demand that the police be shut down. So, murder and mayhem will disappear then, or, are we left on our own? Perhaps to sing songs and all will b well? Valid questions, since BLM demands are not well thought out.

    • Barbara Michael says:

      Those of us with white privilege can do our work on racism and take personal responsibility through groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Many people of color need each other’s support right now. If you want to support them, then take food to rallies, help pay for a Porta Potty at a protest – and yes, be willing to walk in front if you are asked. It’s about time! Have you been to jail for justice? When you hear that a prison system needs to be abolished, that generally means wipe the slate clean and start over with something just and reasonable. Please view the film with an open mind and “review” for yourself. May we all begin to walk in another’s shoes!

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