2016 New York Film Festival to Open With Ava DuVernay Documentary ‘The 13th’

New York Film Festival 2016 opening
Courtesy of Netflix

Director Ava DuVernay’s documentary “The 13th” will open the 2016 New York Film Festival, marking the first time the fest has opened with a nonfiction film.

Set for an October release from Netflix, “The 13th” investigates the high rate of incarceration in the U.S., particularly of African Americans. DuVernay, whose directing credits include  “Selma” and “Middle of Nowhere,” traces a historical throughline from “The Birth of a Nation” up through Black Lives Matter, incorporating archival footage and interviews with figures including Angela Davis (pictured above), Cory Booker and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


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The selection of the 2016 opener lends an air of topical urgency to this year’s NYFF, with the subject of the documentary chiming with current events that have pushed tensions between police and the African-American community to a high. It also gives DuVernay’s film a high-profile slot in a tightly curated festival with strong awards-season cache. Past films to open the fest have included “The Social Network” (2010), “Life of Pi” (2012), “Gone Girl” (2014) and last year’s “The Walk.”

No other selections in the 2016 lineup have yet been announced for the festival, presented every year by Film Society of Lincoln Center.

“The 13th,” which takes its title from the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, will open NYFF Sept. 30 ahead of a debut on Netflix and in theaters Oct. 7. The 2016 edition of NYFF runs Sept. 30-Oct. 16.


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  1. Donae Middleton says:

    Despite whites selling and using drugs at higher rates than blacks they are not targeted for incarceration at the same rate. Racism and injustice covers the perspective of whites regarding criminal justice in America. Documentary not needed as that is American culture and the norm. While all prisoners will be addresses the greatest injustice must be put on blast as there is no safety net of priviiege for people of color. There must be an equalizer.

  2. millerfilm says:

    Putting anyone behind bars for first, second or even third drug-possession offenses is a waste. I know DuVernay is only concerned with the 12% of the U.S. Population that is African-American. But, we should be treating all people arrested for drug possession, regardless of what shade of brown they are. After they are helped to get through their drug use or addiction, have them work in their communities helping others as any “punishment,” and return them to society, hopefully better people.

  3. kickmag says:

    I like your comment about cold-blooded killings. I will see the film, too,

  4. Signing of the 13th Amendment in 1865 was followed by 100 years of lynching.

    Incarceration as the central issue in the film seems moot during the rise of the Klu Klux Klan from 1870 to present day with affiliations involving certain law enforcement throughout the 20th Century.8

    The “through-line” not so simple with the attendant “disappearance” of entire black communities in Oklahoma and “Texas” and unsavory characters like Jesse James and Billy the Kid shooting down black men on the street (by 1880) for sport.

    Cold-blooded killings seems more central to the era and century following the 13th Amendment than incarceration.

    I’ll see the film.

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