Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (8/10)

Those who believe that institutionalized systemic racism is fundamentally an American problem should probably give a serious look to this latest offering from writer-director Ava DuVernay, best known for the superb historical drama, “Selma” (2014). Based on the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by best-selling author Isabel Wilkerson, the film examines how organic prejudices are actually a worldwide phenomenon that may or may not have anything specifically to do with race but are more readily attributable to matters of caste. While the picture indeed examines this practice from an American perspective, it also addresses it from the standpoint of the dictates employed in Nazi Germany and in the longstanding Indian caste system, where race was/is not an inherent issue. Rather, the institutionalized discriminatory practices in these locales (as well as in others) were (and in some cases still are) driven by the implementation of artificial distinctions that have been established and perpetuated based on other characteristics but that have had the same kinds of negative impact as those driven by race-based policies. The filmmaker explores how author Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis Taylor) went about researching and writing the book on this subject, a project undertaken at a time when she was dealing with the fallout from a series of personal tragedies involving her mother (Emily Yancy), husband (Jon Bernthal) and cousin (Niecy Nash-Betts), giving her a reason to pick herself up and carry on with her life. Admittedly, the multiple story threads involved in the narrative and the way in which they’re organized could have used some tweaking for greater clarity and smoother connectedness, and the author’s theories could have stood to be presented a little less overly intellectually at times. However, in the end, the movie’s themes successfully come together to create a captivating and eye-opening hypothesis that we’d all be wise to consider seriously. What’s more, the depiction of Wilkerson’s personal story is filled with a series of strongly emotive moments that are sure to tug heartily at the heart strings, so keep the hankies handy. The film also features an array of fine, small-role supporting performances from the likes of Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, Audra McDonald, Finn Whitrock, Vera Farmiga, Myles Frost and Lennox Simms. In the end, the revelations exposed here could well make you sad for the needlessly sorry state of humanity. But the picture also provides a deeper, more insightful understanding of what’s fundamentally wrong with humanity, providing us with a key that just might help us find our way out of the current social morass with a solution that could potentially help us finally fix things for good.