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COLUMN — The Impact of Ava DuVernay

By Chantè Russell, Culture Staff Writer
Posted 3:35 PM EST, Tues., Oct. 4, 2016

Ava DuVernay has been nominated for two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her film, “Middle of Nowhere” Since then, DuVernay’s work has been extremely successful. “Selma,” “Scandal,” “Queen Sugar” and even the series of Apple Music commercials featuring actresses Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington and Mary J. Blige are just a few pieces of work that are a part DuVernay’s extensive catalogue.

She also founded Array, an organization dedicated to gaining exposure for the works of women and people of color in the film industry, in 2010. Array is composed of arts advocacy groups, volunteers and international donors who call themselves “rebels” and are devoted to the inclusion rather than diversity. One of the most popular Array films is “Mississippi Damned.” Along with Array, DuVernay’s advocacy for the advancement of all filmmakers and artists has become a major part of her work.

“We exist and we make art. We make these projects within a sphere, within a system that is not built to support varied voices,” DuVernay said while speaking on a panel at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival. “It’s not built to support them, nourish them or amplify them.”  

She went on to speak about how the shock that usually accompanies the success of a film directed by a woman or person of color is an insult. She explained that the assumption assumes that that particular director was the only one with the capacity to do well despite there being numerous talented filmmakers who have gone unnoticed.

DuVernay continues to debunk the myth that the achievement of women of color in film is pure luck by working hard to create more box office hits. Her current project is a Disney live action adaptation of the 1963 Newbery Medal-winning fantasy novel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle. With this job, DuVernay has become the first woman of color to direct a film with a budget over $100 million.

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Both by making history herself and by helping others to do the same, DuVernay has been able to create a huge impact on the film industry. Her work is truly trailblazing a path for women and people of color whose voices are all too commonly lost.


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