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TV viewers seek out '13th' and other stories about race amid protests

The audience for filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary '13th' about mass incarceration that disproportionately affects black people, jumped more than 47 times higher over the past three weeks, according to streaming service Netflix.

Picture: Netflix.com

LOS ANGELES - Television series, movies and documentaries about the experience of black people in the United States have seen a surge in viewership as public demonstrations have focused new attention on racial discrimination, according to industry data.

The audience for filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th, about mass incarceration that disproportionately affects black people, jumped more than 47 times higher over the past three weeks, streaming service Netflix Inc said on Tuesday. Millions of people watched, the company said, though it did not give a specific figure.

DuVernay welcomed the sudden spike in attention for 13th and other movies, books and TV shows about race from people trying to better understand the reasons behind inequality.

“It’s rare. It’s a once-in-a-generation mood that we’re in,” DuVernay said in an interview with Reuters Television. “I hope that people that might be engaging with this material now will look to work like this outside of these very tense cultural moments (and) just let it be a very steady stream of learning and enlightenment.”

Streaming networks have highlighted programming by black creators in recent weeks as protests swelled over the killing of African American George Floyd in US police custody. AT&T Inc’s HBO Max featured a slate of shows and movies under the heading 'Celebrating Black Voices', while Walt Disney Co’s Hulu included a link to 'Black Stories'.

Dear White People, a Netflix comedy about black Ivy League college students, enjoyed a 331% boost in demand in the United States over the past 30 days, according to Parrot Analytics, which measures downloads, social-media mentions and other data.

DuVernay’s Netflix series When They See Us, about five men wrongly accused of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989, saw demand jump 83% in that time.

On the Apple TV app, which featured sections called 'Confronting Systemic Racism' and 'Black in America', 2014 Oscar-winning drama 12 Years a Slave climbed to number eight among top independent films for the week ending 14 June.

That was just behind documentary I Am Not Your Negro and Loving, about an interracial couple who prompted a landmark anti-discrimination ruling in 1967.