NEW YORK (WABC) -- When the 13th Amendment closed the door on slavery in the United States, it left open a window of opportunity for people who still wanted to profit off free labor. And that problem is the focus of the new movie "13th," a documentary that takes an alarming look at racism in the justice system.
What was supposed to open a new chapter in American history after the Civil War instead led instead to widespread racism, and the film looks at a judicial process that puts far more blacks than whites behind bars.
One of the stories told in the film is that of Kalief Browder, who was walking home from a party when he was stopped by police. He was then imprisoned at Rikers Island for three years without a trial, and while his case was dismissed, he later committed suicide.
"These are souls," director Ava Duvernay said. "These are spirits. And his was broken by that process. And so I know that's a story that New Yorkers hold dear, and we were happy to amplify it in the film."
Duvernay looked at the history of the civil rights movement in her drama "Selma," but she offers an even broader view in this documentary.
"The hope is that it gives context to Black Lives Matter, to folks who don't truly understand what that means," she said. "It's basically the history of racism, and forward-looking people should be interested in interrogating that and getting underneath it so we can solve it. It's a problem."
Voices in the film from the right and the left make the account more credible and powerful, so much so that "13th" was chosen to kick off the New York Film Festival, where it premiered to a standing ovation.
Ava Duvernay's '13th' a powerful film about racism in America
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