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Ava DuVernay at New York Film Festival: Opening night film The 13th kicks off NYFF54

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Surprise! Ava DuVernay has a new film, and it’s scheduled to open the 54th New York Film Festival.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced Tuesday that the documentary project, The 13th, will kick off the influential festival’s next edition at the Alice Tully Hall on Sept. 30, marking the first time in NYFF history a nonfiction film has done so.

Following The 13th‘s NYFF world premiere, it will stream on Netflix and enter a limited theatrical run on Oct. 7.

The 13th, the title of which is a reference to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (“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… ”), chronicles the history of racial tension in the United States, including “how our country has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of those imprisoned being African-American,” according to a press release.

“While I was watching The 13th, the distinction between documentary and fiction gave way and I felt like I was experiencing something so rare: direct contact between the artist and right now, this very moment,” Kent Jones, director of the NYFF, said in a statement. “In fact, Ava is actually trying to redefine the terms on which we discuss where we’re at, how we got here, and where we’re going. The 13th is a great film. It’s also an act of true patriotism.”

Further tracing America’s deeply rooted, divisive racial racial prejudices that have driven mass criminalization in the country, The 13th explores topics ranging from the release of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and the rise the Civil Rights Movement to the formation of the contemporary Black Lives Matter group. The film features archival footage and testimonials from figures like Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Angela Davis, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Craig DeRoche, Shaka Senghor, Malkia Cyril, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and formerly incarcerated men and women.

“It is a true honor for me and my collaborators to premiere The 13th as the opening night selection of the New York Film Festival,” DuVernay said in a release. “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. I thank Kent Jones and the selection committee for inviting me to share what I’ve learned.”

The NYFF, which has launched several Oscar-bound films into the awards race in the past, runs for 17 days between Sept. 30 – Oct. 16. Tickets for this year’s event are on sale beginning Sept. 11, though becoming a Film Society of Lincoln Center member (at the Film Buff level or above) provides early access to tickets.