Watching Ava DuVernay’s trajectory as a director, producer, distributor, and now civil rights leader has been interesting. The jump from making I Will Follow to Middle of Nowhere, which won Best Director at Sundance, and then to Selma, which earned a Golden Globe nod for Director and then a Best Picture nomination, illustrates how DuVernay’s view of American life and her place within it has evolved over the past few years. Her latest film, the documentary feature 13th – which has been short-listed but not yet nominated, was the film she had to make after Selma. Selma told of an important moment in history — and is the only biopic of Martin Luther King, Jr. 13th tells the whole story of what came before and what came after. If you look at I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere on one side and Selma and 13th on the other, you can really see the dramatic shift in perspective, though the directorial thumbprint is evident in all of her work.
I thought it might be a good day to take a look at that evolution with clips of her work.
I can’t think of any other filmmaker whose voice, vision, and execution changed that much and that fast. DuVernay has single-handedly changed the film business. She’s opened doors that were previously closed by doing it. Just by doing it. Her production company ARRAY continues to distribute films aimed at both the African American film community and the white film community. She directed the series Queen Sugar for the OWN network, and is currently in pre-production on A Wrinkle in Time.
I guess I spend a lot of time complaining about the state of things for women, how so few of them get a shot. They don’t get mentored the same way men do. Men fail upwards. They are given chance after chance after chance, even when their movies bomb. Women mostly get no chance. But I think you see from DuVernay’s career that sometimes it’s better not to play within the rules at all, but to make your own rules, make your own path and hope that enough people support what you’re doing. In other words, why leave it up to the old guard to decide your fate?
So we raise our glass to the successful, ambitious, accomplished filmmaker and activist Ava DuVernay, who felt it was important to bring Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historical life to the big screen.