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She Got Game Media

Meet Hans Charles: Visual Artist Behind "13th," a New Documentary by Selma Director Ava DuVernay 

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC

For the first time a nonfiction film will open the prestigious New York Film Festival which began September 30th and ends October 16th.  "13th," a new documentary by Selma Director Ava DuVernay, on the subject of incarceration, equates the U.S. prison system to modern day slavery.

The man behind the lens of "13th," is Hans Charles, a Professor of Film and Video Studies at George Mason University. Charles shared the director of photography role with Kira Kelly.

"13th," named for the 13th Amendment which ended slavery in the U.S., tackles the issue of mass incarceration, the three strikes law and the rise of private prisons. 

Charles , who once worked with former prisoners as a mental health specialist, said it was his knowledge of these social issues that ultimately landed him the job with DuVernay. 

"She called me and said, "you have a passion for it; you seem to know a lot about the subject matter," Charles said. 

In "13th," Charles and DuVernay offer a powerful mixture of archival footage and testimonies from activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men.  Among some of those featured in the documentary include Angela Davis, Newt Gingrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Senator Cory Booker, Khalil Muhammad, among others. The film will be available on Netflix beginning October 7th, 2016. 

About Hans Charles  

Hans Charles started studying cinema at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center and worked for Tracey Edmonds (Soulfood, Set it Off) and Bridget Davis (Sister Act II, Hav Plenty)  at Edmonds Entertainment.  After leaving Los Angeles, Mr. Charles pursued his MFA in film at Howard University’s Graduate Film Program..  While a graduate student, he produced his first feature Like Water, but developed an eye for cinematography. Mentored by cinematographer Bradford Young ASC (Selma, A Most Violent Year), he became the focus puller for Bradford’s early work including Pariah, Middle of Nowhere and Mother of George.  He has shot for a range of directors as a camera operator including Spike Lee, and Salim Akil (Jumping the Broom, Sparkle) and has worked on several films including Entre Nos, In the Morning, and  Dreams Are Colder Than Death . His television credits also include BET’s The Game, and The Start Up. His films as a cinematographer have screened at at festivals all over the world including, The New York Film Festival, Urban World Film Festival, the New York City Latino Film Festival, OutFest, the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Zanzibar Film Festival, the BlackStar film festival, and networks like HBO and ESPN.  


Hans is a former professor of Cinematography at Howard University, and is a tenure track professor of Cinematography at George Mason University in Virginia.  Hans’ latest feature work is Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th.  He is currently in pre-production for his first comedy with his creative partner, writer/director Menelek Lumumba, The Reception.  He and Menelek host a weekly film podcast called the Back of the Theater podcast.  Mr. Charles resides in the District of Columbia with his family.

In His Words

"My work as a cinematographer takes me all over the world from the old Medina in Casablanca, a mountain top in Zulu land in South Africa, or the great Teton Mountains in Wyoming. Along the way, I bring my camera to capture the moment; an amazing sunset, or the timeless expression of a subject's face."  Hans Charles.