The name Ava DuVernay should ring a bell for most people. Film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and distributor, she’s built herself quite the reputation in Hollywood. Ava is also the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe. He reputation in Hollywood is unquestionable. She’s here to stay. DuVernay is known for standing up for what you believe in and saying what others are too afraid to say. She’s a strong supporter of women empowerment and racial equality. Her movies are often inspirational and empowering. So how did she become an inspiration to women everywhere? How did she make history through her movies? Read up to find out!
Ava is the daughter of parents Darlene and Murray Mae. Born and raised in Lynwood, California, not far from Compton, she has four other siblings. Her father is originally from Selma, Alabama, Ava would spend her summers in her father’s childhood home. Her summers spent in Selma would eventually inspire her to produce the Oscar-nominated movie, Selma.
She got her B.A. from UCLA in English Literature and African-American studies. Her career in the entertainment industry started as a journalist covering the O.J. Simpson murder trial. She took an interest in Public Relations and opened her own PR Agency, DVAPR.
The beginning of a career in the film industry
The first movie she ever created was in 2005 called Saturday Night Life. The 12-minute short film based on her mother’s experience was a huge success. Therefore, seeing the success around the movie, Ava became inspired to create more documentaries. It didn’t require a big budget and she was passionate about it. After a few documentaries which also received hugely positive feedback, Ava decided to turn towards narrative movies.
Making History as First African-Woman Film Director
In 2012, her film, Middle of Nowhere, won her the award for Film Director at the Sundance Film Festival. This is the first award by an African-Woman. The movie made her win several other awards and gave her a strong reputation as a Director. Therefore, it’s no wonder that she was the Director of the Oscar-nominated movie, Selma.
Released on Christmas Day in 2014, the movie created a lot of buzz during the 2015 Oscars. For starters, DuVernay received a lot of criticism for her re-writes on the original script. Accused of making the edits for her own personal agenda, Ava fired back stating that she is a storyteller, not a historian and the movie is not a documentary.
The Beginning of Racial Diversity
Selma created a lot of controversy during the 2015 Oscars. It was the only movie that had a person of color. Therefore, the Academy Awards were seen as not supporting racial diversity. Although Ava was not nominated for Best Director, Selma did get a nomination in Best Picture and Best Original Song. The 2015 Oscars and the lack of black nominees was the cause of many black people boycotting the 2016 Oscars. DuVernay was among the list of several people who didn’t attend the 2016 Oscars. What was Ava’s reaction to the #OscarsSoWhite issue?
“I hate that word so, so much,” she says of ‘diversity’. “I feel it’s a medicinal word that has no emotional resonance, and this is a really emotional issue. It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of colour to have less value placed on our worldview. There’s a belonging problem in Hollywood. Who dictates who belongs?I hate that word so, so much,” she says of ‘diversity’. “I feel it’s a medicinal word that has no emotional resonance, and this is a really emotional issue. It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of colour to have less value placed on our worldview.”
The issue of racial diversity and belonging inspired Ava to direct a documentary called 13th. The movie focuses on the 13th amendment and that a majority of black people in the U.S. are incarcerated. Focused on the race issue in criminal justice in America, the movie was a huge success. In fact, it scores at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, it’s a success. It was the first time for a female black director to be nominated in that category.
Making History… Again
Her 2018 movie A Wrinkle in Time created history again! The 100 million dollar budget movie brought over $33 million on its opening weekend. It was the first time a woman of color directed a live-action movie that had a budget of over $100 million. Ava is also the second women to do so after Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).
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It’s safe to say that Ava is truly successful when it comes to her career. She knows what she’s doing and isn’t afraid to speak up. Her twitter posts often speak out what others aren’t willing to say. Not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, DuVernay is a true inspiration to women everywhere. She teaches people to not be afraid to follow your dreams. If you believe it strong enough and work hard, anything is possible. She teaches us to not let other critics stop us from achieving her goals. A true inspiration.