Really, it’s to give context to the current moment. The current moment of mass criminalization, of incarceration as an industry, prison as profit, punishment as profit. And the current moment of the declaration that the lives of black people, our very breath, our very dignity, our very humanity, are valuable and matter to the world. The film is designed to get us to that point, and those three words are more than words. They are the very blood that runs within us.
My hope is that this film has much of the beautiful art that’s coming out at this time, speaks to that in a way that is powerful, in a way that we can look back on and say this is how we felt. I’m honored to be making art during this time. I believe it’s happening in theater. It’s happening in film. It’s happening in television. It’s happening in music. Just this weekend, [13th debuted at the New York Film Festival on September 30], you have Solange Knowles’ new album, which is a protest album expressing dissent. You have Luke Cage, another television piece on Netflix. On one day, across multiple platforms, you have black artists declaring our humanity, our dignity, essentially through all of these pieces, saying that black lives matter. So it is a real movement. It hits the political spectrum, the cultural spectrum. It all is one thing to me.
Lantigua-Williams: What words would you give your viewers and the people who follow your work, to get through this moment? What words would you give them to replace some of those very hurtful words that you’ve chronicled in your film?
DuVernay: I believe in fortification and I believe that at this time, we should be fortifying ourselves through knowledge, through self-care, through community. All of these speak through art. It’s really about rallying around this moment and taking in a totality of what it is, and making it internal in whatever way that means to you. If you know all this stuff, great. Pass it on. If you don’t know it, know it. You need to know it. Because at this point, after you see 13th, silence in this case is consent. You know all of this. You’re a forward-thinking person, you care about it. You can’t just walk out into the night after you see the movie or put down your iPad after you see it on Netflix and do nothing about it.
I’m not saying you have to join a march. I’m not saying you have to push for legislation. I’m saying what this film talks about is the very way that we deal with each other in the everyday. It’s about our relationship to each other as it deals with race. So there’s a lot there to be done. I’m stepping out of the conversation as it relates to this film. I’m doing two weekends talking to people and kind of giving birth to it and putting it out into the world. And then I’m going away because it’s not mine anymore. This is out in the world. I don't want my voice clouding the conversation. I want people to be having their own conversation about it. That’s my great hope.