Throughout her career, Ava DuVernay has made history as the first Black woman to not only win an award for Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival, but also to direct an Oscar-nominated Best Picture film AND receive a Golden Globe nomination. Today, the groundbreaking filmmaker celebrates her birthday! From Selma to When They See Us, DuVernay’s skill in both film and television spans genres while remaining dedicated to social justice and uplifting Black stories. One of her most impactful movies is 13th, a documentary that unpacks racial inequality in America specifically relating to mass incarceration. In the film, DuVernay utilizes striking statistics and absorbing visual techniques to emphasize corruption within the United States political institutions and legal system. This novel approach to the formatting of 13th solidified her status as an auteur and earned many accolades, including the BAFTA award for Best Documentary. FF2 Media’s Julia Lasker writes, “I believe 13th is the culmination of DuVernay’s powerful influence, which she has been building up for a decade… She is a filmmaker with something to say and an impressive way of saying it, and because of that, her voice simply must be heard.” Check out the rest of Julia’s article on the work of Ava DuVernay by clicking here.
Beyond the documentary genre, DuVernay is known for her expertise in historical fiction. In Selma, she chronicles a portion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life while detailing the infamous 1965 voting rights marches from the titular town of Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Later, DuVernay created, directed and co-wrote a four-part miniseries, When They See Us, which is based on the true story of the Central Park Five, (a group of young boys who were falsely accused and imprisoned for assaulting a jogger in New York City). The events depicted begin in 1989 and end in 2014 with the exoneration of the five men who had been jailed for up to 11 years. They are now known as the “Exonerated Five.” DuVernay’s recreation of this criminal case received several Emmy nominations and won Best Limited Series at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards.
However, historical fiction is not where her talents end. She also directed A Wrinkle in Time, a science-fiction adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel by the same name. It tells the story of a girl named Meg Murray who embarks on an astral adventure with her brother, friend and three strangers. With this movie, Ava DuVernay became the first Black woman to direct a $100-million-budget live-action film. According to Katharine Cutler, “The film doesn’t follow L’Engle’s book to the letter; it makes changes to fit today’s world, not L’Engle’s pre-Civil Rights world. DuVernay reimagines a world that has been constantly ripped off by other sci-fi films, adding new elements that make her film feel fresh and dynamic. In this way, DuVernay connects with her young audience, delivering them a normal black girl in a magnificent world to look up to and cherish… Finally, youth audiences can actually see themselves on screen, in age, in race, and in gender.” Read the rest of Katharine’s thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time here. Happy Birthday, Ava DuVernay!
©Anna Nappi (8/24/21) Special for FF2 Media
Featured Photo: “Ava DuVernay – 13th” by Peabody Awards is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Top photo: “File:DuVernaySanFranFilmFest.jpg” by Mariemaye (talk) is licensed with CC BY 3.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0