Ava Duvernay’s film investigates the roots of America’s mass incarceration problem.
Ava DuVernay was finishing up her civil rights drama, Selma, when she got a call from a Netflix executive: Would DuVernay be interested in making a documentary? DuVernay, who had previously directed two docs, didn’t need to mull it over: “I knew I wanted to do something about prisons.”

Having been raised in Compton, Calif., DuVernay said she’d long been interested in race and criminal justice issues, and had even studied African American history in college. “I was always disturbed, fascinated, and furious [about]…the prison industrial complex,” she said at a press event.