13th: A Conversation With Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay | Reflections

13TH: A Conversation with Oprah Winfrey & Ava DuVernay – Netflix


We’re all human at the kitchen table. – Ava DuVernay

Our church has been going through The New Jim Crow for our book club, and I’ve been personally growing in my education on this issue, wondering, pondering, struggling, and grieving over what and how I can contribute to the hard work of reversing the inhumane treatment of our fellow citizens. In theological terms, How to redeem God’s Creation. And, this is not just in redeeming people who are the victims of injustices, but also redeeming the people, who bear the very image of God, who have so quickly and easily defamed and desecrated the image of God in others. In many ways, their redemption is as critical a step in this fight as any. So, identifying and healing the sins of racial bias, ignorance, apathy, and false presuppositions is perhaps where I can leverage my gifts, talents, and location in life and society, for the greater cause.

This begins with me. And may God heal me of my “sin.”

In any documentary, there are hundreds of hours left on the “cutting room floor,” and 13th is no exception. In this interview, DuVernay shares some of her reasons for the edits she made, what to keep, and what to leave out. It is not only a fascinating insight into the artistic and creative process, but it also exposes the heart behind the project. For example, how to end a documentary such as 13th.

DuVernay shares that the original planned ending had the interviewees each sharing their name, and their respective institutions, or books that are working hard on this issue. The idea was to highlight the best and brightest minds are working hard at this, a beautiful and powerful array of modern day prophets in the trenches. However, while impactful, she got the sense that…

…it let you off the hook. After you saw those people say, I’m “such and such” from this organization, I’m ‘such and such’ who wrote this book, you thought, “Oh, they’re going to take care of it. They’re going to handle it. Oh, there’s some good people on the case. Look how smart they are.” And it took you off the hook of having to feel a certain way or having to do anything. I didn’t want it to be a light ending. I wanted it to be something where you feel like I must do something.

Here is where I think the tension still is challenging. While I feel activated (and desiring not to grow weary when the adrenaline wears off, or the threat appears to dissipate), I also still am distracted by the “experts,” wondering “why isn’t this taken care of with those amazing people on the case?!”

And perhaps it is simply because, “the case” is not the institution, or “the system.” The “case” is the will of the people, the heart of our culture, and the ethics of our collective souls.

The “case” is summed up in Oprah’s final comments,

We’re all human at the kitchen table. … I think that one of the beautiful things you were able to accomplish with 13th is that you humanized it. You made inmates not just inmates, but you allowed us to see that these are people, and not just criminals. And that, to me, is the real work that you did here.

And that is the real work we must continue to do.

About VIA


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