The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which organizes the NYFF, will premiere "The 13th" as its opening night selection. An NYFF statement says that "The 13th" is the first nonfiction work to ever open the festival, which runs from September 30 to October 16. The "Selma" director’s documentary will also air via Netflix on October 7, the same day that it opens for a limited theatrical run.
The film focuses on the history and policies leading to the country’s current mass incarceration epidemic. It takes its name from the 13th Amendment, which says that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." The documentary explores the implications of the qualifying clause "except as punishment," which created room for further subjugation of African Americans even as the amendment outlawed slavery. Activists and experts, including Michelle Alexander, Malkia Cyril and Van Jones, feature alongside currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.
"This film was made as an answer to my own questions about how and why we have become the most incarcerated nation in the world, how and why we regard some of our citizens as innately criminal, and how and why good people allow this injustice to happen generation after generation," DuVernay said in the statement.