One of the most powerful images in Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th involves a juxtaposition of Donald Trump’s campaign speech about “the good old days” in America with jarring footage from the Civil Rights era. In a recent interview, DuVernay talked about the significance of this type of imagery and how Americans will react when we finally see Trump being sworn in as President.
On the latest episode of Variety’s podcast Playback, a conversation about Oscars politics bleeds into a discussion about the making of 13th and its recognition by the Academy. “My pitch was to do a piece about the prison industrial complex, mostly the money that is being made off punishment and that process and the power all tied up into that,” says DuVernay. “The pieces started to fit together where it became a lot bigger than I originally bit off.”
Regarding Trump, DuVernay says while creating the film she focused on keeping it evergreen and not playing into election antics—“It resonates in a different way, but it doesn’t feel dated, because we didn’t indulge in the low-hanging fruit,” she says. Later in the interview, she reaffirms that reality is about to set in hardcore for a large swath of Americans on Inauguration Day:
“The power of the image is one that we all know, as people who love film and practice film, is a striking, emotional thing. And when he lifts his hand, puts his hand on that Bible and takes that oath and we see the image, I really... I pray that that is the thing that shakes us out of the stupor like this is like a bad reality show and it’s not real or something’s gonna happen to turn it all around. Because then it’s done. And I’m dreading the image, but it is coming. And it is real.”