The Pestle


Ep 110: “13th” (Ava DuVernay)

June 19, 2020

We look at Ava DuVernay’s “13th” and discuss:

  • cinematography, inserting metaphor into the frame;
  • editing;
  • stories of casual encounters with police;
  • protests in Austin;
  • and other such stuff and things and stuff.

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. – Malcolm X

Police Encounters from my friends

A couple of Shomari’s stories:


One of Gerald’s stories:

My other run in was as an adult several years ago. My wife Amelia and I were moving out of our apartment to the new house we bought. (Mind you the old apartment was in off 360 Westlake area) White heaven. Amelia was at our new house and I told her I would go back to the apartment and grab the last couple of small boxes, clean up and, turn in the keys. (No moving truck required for this)

I was at the apartment taking things to the car and cleaning for a an hour or so. At around 6pm (dusk) I hear a loud banging at my door. It was loud and aggressive like I thought someone was gonna jack me. I went to the door and looked through the peephole and saw nothing. So I shrugged it off but decided to lock the door because it was unlocked the entire time I was cleaning. As soon as i locked the door to go back to cleaning I hear the loud banging on my door again. I look through my peephole and see nothing again, but decide to ask who is it, thinking maybe someone is playing a joke on me. Then the person says “it’s police open the door now!”

At this point my heart is racing and confused. As I opened the door I see 4 cops 2 on each side of the door with guns drawn. They were purposely hiding from the peephole. They rushed my apartment and put me against the wall like it was a drug bust. My heart is racing and I’m confused as to what’s going on.

As I’m on the wall they ask me what I’m doing. In my best “white sounding” voice I told them I was moving out and cleaning up the apt before I turn in the keys. They asked if I was Gerald (meaning they had already run the tags on my car outside) I said yes. They asked me for my drivers license, I told them it was in my wallet in the kitchen, they allowed me to get my wallet, one guy took my ID and went to his police car to run my id while the other 3 stayed with me guns still out. A few minutes later the cop comes back and says “He’s good” and the cop gives me back my ID and they left. No apology, and their justification was that they responded to a call that a large black man was burglarizing an apartment, “we’re just doing our job”.

I was fuming angry but I knew I couldn’t express that or it could’ve cost me my life.
It was a violating, scary, and emasculating experience. Here I am a college educated, working in tech (Apple at the time), family man, being perceived as a criminal because of the color of my skin. Those types of experiences never leave you and shape how I view officers and heighten the awareness of how others perceive you. I shouldn’t have to show my resume to people to prove i’m not a threat or I belong.

It was traumatic. The thing that bothers me most now isn’t that raid, as much as how the cops treated me after they realized I wasn’t a criminal. Dismissive, unapologetic, with the air of get over it. They could’ve made things right before they left.

Notes & References:
Police Unions hinder accountability and reforms – “Nearly half of the [Union] contracts allow officers accused of misconduct to access the entire investigative file – including witness statements, GPS readouts, photos, videos and notes from the internal investigation – before being interrogated.”
“This is the Life (How the West was One)” – Ava DuVernay’s first documentary
City of Austin funds APD $430k auto theft budget
Police seized $10,000 of a couple’s cash. They couldn’t get it back — until they went public.
US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel’s son killed by police

Watch us on YouTube!

Film Analysis Stills

I’ll be fleshing this section out more in the coming days, but for now here’s some quick views of a variety of people’s interview setups. Consider their position in the frame, both how big/important they are, how high or low they are, their lighting, their background and what the imagery evokes (systemic/architectural symbolism, prison imagery, etc), and who the person is in context of the topic (do they have power over the system, how does the system generally view them, etc).

This Week’s Recommendations:


  1. Marc Israel says:

    My starting point of the conversation is where you ended (roughly, if I heard correctly), “We’re just two white guys speaking about black problems”.No

    You are white guys speaking about our problem. Our problem has been further exposed by our current President. The history books will eventually show that it was during his reign that the ideals that we Americana hold close to heart we’re not held by a “huge” portion of its population.

    And it’s a worldwide problem being exposed in Europe and Brazil where right wing politicians have opened the floodgates of hate. As stated in the documentary, we need momentum to get change, but that change never becomes equality. It’s a governmental promise that placates masses and rattles the ignorant.

    But they come back like locusts, as they have the last four years. Our “leader” told the black community, “vote for me, you could do worse”…. the locusts laughed snd swarmed.

    One conversation, one talk of enlightenment, one person seeing another with similarities, not differences and eventually one changed viewpoint.

    This is my belief and my personal mission. I will put myself out their to be an experienced voice of reason. I have faced anti-semitism for decades but rarely has it gotten personally physical. Thanks for your friends first hand accounts of their experiences at the hands of others.

    The first thing I share is that events occur without provocation. Take away the excuses for the racist behavior and let it sink in… that’s where the conversation starts. What if that were you? What if that was your wife, child, home, existence?

    1. wes says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply, my friend! Completely agree, there are so many key areas to advocate for change whether it’s through politics, or through personal conversations. They all matter, and they all add up. I deeply appreciate that you’re an agent for change and I hope we’ll get there sooner rather than later, we’ve waited long enough.

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