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Ava Duvernay's 13th Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

After viewing Ava Duvernay's documentary, 13th, use the following discussion questions to help students think critically about the information in the film and the prison system in the United States.

13th

In 13th, Ava Duvernay brings light to the abuse of the prison system in America. Her documentary focuses on how the government has created a system that abuses the right to freedom for certain groups, especially African-American males. After watching this film with your students, use this guide to help them think critically about the problem and proposed solutions.

Analyzing the Content

  • Where does the title of the film come from? What surprised you about this?
  • This film is full of statistics, many of them startling. Which statistic stood out to you the most? Why do you think this is?
  • Who is the intended audience of the film?
  • How does the incarceration in the United States compare to the incarceration rates in other countries? What surprises you about this?
  • How do economics influence prison rates in the United States, both historically and in modern times?
  • What is said about police brutality in the film? What did you already know about this going into the film? What information was new to you?
  • Typically, things like the war on drugs and being tough on crime are seen as positive aspects of society. However, this film turns that on its head. What does the film say that these programs actually do to minorities?
  • What does the film say about the Black Lives Matter movement? What surprised you about this?
  • What is the tone of the film?
  • What cinematic techniques does Duvernay use to keep you interested and invested in the film?

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