Beatrice Melodia Festa, Adjunct Professor of American Literature (University of Bari) and English Language (University of Verona), holds a Double Master’s Degree (MA) in American Studies from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and The City College of New York, and a Ph.D. in modern languages and literatures from the University of Verona. Her main research interests include the analysis of virtual identity, media studies and communication systems in American literature from the late 1800s to the 2000s, cyberfiction, pseudo-modernism, the Black body, shame and race in the works of William Faulkner, prison narratives, and postmodern literature. She has published essays in international journals of American Studies on twentieth-century American literature, especially on William Faulkner and Edith Wharton, as well as on the incursion of communication systems in postmodernism and cyberfiction (with a focus on the works of Thomas Pynchon and Dave Eggers), and on literature and cultural studies. Currently, she is doing research on technology and race in contemporary Black speculative fiction. She is member of the editorial board of Iperstoria, ANVUR’s A class journal of the University of Verona. Her first monograph on the evolution of virtual identity in American literature from the telegraph to the Internet is to be published this year by Ombre Corte.
Festa, B. M. “Netflix and the American Prison Film: Depictions of Incarceration and the New Prison Narrative in Ava DuVernay’s 13th (2016)”. Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, vol. 28, no. 1, June 2022, doi:10.30608/HJEAS/2022/28/1/9.
The essay examines the complexities of America’s penal system through the lens of prison films and the recurrent representations of incarceration on screen. Following an introduction about America’s penal system, Mass Incarceration, and the enforcement of systemic racism through the Prison Industrial Complex, the analysis focuses on the images of confinement in movies. An overview of traditional narratives on prison is offered to highlight the main characteristics of the ambiguous and challenging genre of the prison film, while a closer look at one of its contemporary examples, Ava DuVernay’s 13th (2016), sheds light on how the presence of Netflix and the innovative narrative strategy employed to portray the complexities of confinement represent a new form of prison film—one that abandons a Hollywoodesque approach in favor of a documentaristic strategy, and, through its distribution on Netflix, reaches its target audience. The analysis conclusively demonstrates how Netflix has changed and challenged the way we see prisons on screen, and how, as DuVernay’s docufilm shows, it has posited the tangled question of race so that the viewer can understand the functioning of the modern prison. By way of conclusion, the essay demonstrates that the new prison film, shifting toward distribution on Netflix as a mode of audience registration, clearly manifests a strategy to instruct American public opinion on race and the criminal justice system. (BMF)