Title: 13th
Released: 2016

Fix: Documentary on the History of Institutional Racism and the U.S. Criminal Justice System
Platform: Netflix

Netflix Summary:

In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists, and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.

FYA Summary:

In 1864, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, but with one significant caveat: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. Exploitation of this loophole would eventually give rise to modern-day mass incarceration that disproportionately affects the African-American population.

Familiar Faces:

For anyone even sort of familiar with American history and/or current events (so: America), there will be plenty of familiar faces, both in archive footage and new content. Two particularly topical names stand out: Emmett Till, the young black boy who was brutally murdered in 1955 because of what’s been recently confirmed as a falsified accusation; and the now-President of the United States, whose incendiary words are even more chilling when combined with images from the violent past.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Low

This is one of those films that you’ll want everybody to watch — but just not, like, with you, unless you’re into communal rage-outs and crying sessions.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: None (ish)

Sober material calls for sober thoughts, but definitely self-medicate as necessary afterwards because UGHHHH THE SYSTEM IS SO BROKEN AND EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Required

If you’re looking for a fun diversion… this is obviously not it. 13th is upsetting but essential viewing for understanding institutional racism against African-Americans that fuels the lucrative prison industry. (And if you’re an Oscars completionist, it’s nominated for this year’s Best Documentary Feature award — an accolade that it’s totally deserving of.)

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.