Sankofa Studies

Ava Marie DuVernay

February 16, 2021

Film and TV Director. Screenwriter. Film Marketer. Film Distributor. Activist.

Ava DuVernay attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in both English and African American studies in 1995. She then worked as a publicist for FOX, Savoy Pictures, and public relations firms for four years before forming her own agency, The DuVernay Agency, which would later be known as DVA Media plus Marketing in 1999.

In 2011 DuVernay co-founded the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a group dedicated to supporting the release and distribution of black independent movies.  DuVernay refers to AFFRM as “not so much a business, but a call to action.” Although she sees building strong business foundations for films is a priority, DuVernay has said that she stresses that the driving force of the organization is activism. In 2015 the company rebranded itself under the name ARRAY, promising a new focus on women filmmakers as well.

In 2012 Middle of Nowhere was released. The film told the story of a promising female medical student who had to come with terms with her husband being incarcerated. DuVernay produced, directed, and wrote the film which earned her the Best Director prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  She became the first African American woman to win that award.

DuVernay directed the film Selma (2014), a historical drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. The film was nominated for four Golden Globe awards: Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, Best Actor, and won for Best Original Song. DuVernay became the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe award. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary for her film 13th.

DuVernay’s 2018 fantasy film “A Wrinkle in Time,” had a production and marketing budget between $150 million and $250 million, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size. The film made her the first black American woman to direct a film that earned at least $100 million domestically.

She created, co-wrote, and directed the Netflix drama miniseries “When They See Us,” based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which has earned critical acclaim.  Netflix announced that the miniseries had been streamed by over 23 million viewers within its first month of release. It has received a record number of 16 nominations for Emmy Awards for writing, directing, and acting for stars and supporting actors.

She is the creator and producer of several TV shows, including Red Line, Queen Sugar and Cherish the Day. DuVernay owns Forward Movement, a film and tv production company.

She continues to open doors and create opportunities for women and people of color. She is making Black History every day!

Sources: and Wikipedia

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