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Ava DuVernay on Fresh Air – Art Houses More Resistant than the Multiplex

If you want to change the world you have to have to strong shoulders. It would never be enough for Ava DuVernay to have made Middle of Nowhere, a film she funded by herself (for around $200,000). She also had to work with her distribution company to get that film into theaters.  That proved more difficult than she thought it would.  Turns out, the art house crowd is resistant to films about African Americans, made by African American filmmakers.  She mentioned this in her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross.  The multiplexes weren’t so resistant because — though we don’t like to admit it — our economy has continued to replenish a kind of forced segregation. This is true about most minorities, actually – films at the art house are for the white community. I found this really astonishing news. So Duvernay’s task was to change that. To nudge the door open a tiny bit by making a path for black audiences to go to the art house.

Isn’t that interesting? That’s perhaps why there is forced segregation in the Oscar race, and why so few black directors are taken seriously enough to be considered for the Oscars. If DuVernay is nominated for an original screenplay Oscar (she is not a WGA member so she won’t get a WGA nod) she will be the first female black auteur to do so.

I guess I never really connected the dots, to realize that art houses were so exclusionary – and not deliberately, of course. That’s just the way things go.  Imagine how much more money the smaller independents could make if they could learn how to bridge the gap between the hispanic, black, and asian communities? Instead, we rely on one small group of people from a certain type of community to fund these movies.

Perhaps DuVernay will make a difference.

Have a listen to that Fresh Air interview – it’s quite insightful, not just about the black film community of storytellers, but about how DuVernay grew up in a “family of women” and found her voice. She didn’t like the rules so she changed them. How about that.

Two clips from the film after the cut.