The New York Film Festival (NYFF) returns for its 54th year this fall, and already has a magnificent headliner. Selma director Ava DuVernay will open the festival with her documentary The 13th, making its world premiere at Alice Tully Hall. According to the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC), this marks the first time the festival has been opened by a work of non-fiction.
The 13th follows the history of racial inequality in the United States, and discusses hard-hitting topics like America’s high rate of incarceration with the majority of those inmates being black. DuVernay chose to title her film The 13th in reference to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution — the revolutionary document that officially ended slavery. A mixture of archival content and interviews can be found spread out through the documentary, including footage with Michelle Alexander, Newt Gingrich, Khalil Muhammad, Shaka Senghor and a multitude of other activists, politicians and more.
“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,” said DuVernay in a statement to the FSLC. “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.”
DuVernay’s Queen Sugar will also make its television premiere this fall, a family drama produced with Oprah Winfrey that will premiere on her network OWN. The series stars True Blood‘s Rutina Wesley as a journalist living in New Orleans and her sister Charley, the wife and manager of an NBA star living in Los Angeles. The first two episodes were directed by DuVernay, while the rest of the season will also be directed by women. Her involvement and direction in these projects proves that DuVernay is one of the leading and strongest voices in Hollywood for women and minorities.
The NYFF is held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16. The 13th will be released on Netflix and in limited theaters on Oct. 7.