In­ter­na­tional celeb – Ava DuVer­nay

Direc­tor and screen­writer AVA DUVER­NAY, 45, rocks. She’s ac­com­plished a slew of firsts in her ca­reer and her star just keeps on ris­ing.

True Love - - Contents - By PHILA TYEKANA

It’s said that ev­ery­one has their sea­son to shine, and for in­de­mand Amer­i­can filmmaker Ava DuVer­nay, her time is now. Af­ter run­ning her award-win­ning film mar­ket­ing and pub­lic­ity firm, DuVer­nay Agency, for 10 years, she switched paths in 2006 and be­came a direc­tor at the age of 32. This, af­ter she was in­spired while working as part of the pub­lic­ity team for the 2004 Jamie Foxx/Tom Cruise thriller,

Col­lat­eral. Fast-for­ward to 2017, and it’s clear that the screen­writer/direc­tor is mak­ing her mark in a Hol­ly­wood still dom­i­nated by men, most of them white.

Over the past few years, Ava has been do­ing a stel­lar job break­ing bound­aries for women, es­pe­cially black women, de­ter­mined to be taken se­ri­ously by the film in­dus­try. In 2012, she won the Best Direc­tor Award at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val for Mid­dle of Nowhere, which she wrote and di­rected. Big­ger ac­co­lades were to come with her 2014 drama,

Selma, about Dr Martin Luther King’s renowned 1965 protests dur­ing Amer­ica’s civil rights strug­gle. It gar­nered four Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions and two Academy Award nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing one for Best Pic­ture – mak­ing Ava the first African-Amer­i­can fe­male direc­tor to re­ceive such recog­ni­tion. It’s just an­other in a range of firsts that she’s racked up – although she’s aware of what these break­throughs mean to many black women. “It’s not im­por­tant to me,” she told

Rolling Stone at the time. “But I know it’s im­por­tant to other peo­ple. It’s bit­ter­sweet, be­cause I’m not the first black woman de­serv­ing of it.”

She told an­other in­ter­viewer: “I al­ways loved film, but I never con­sid­ered mak­ing my own. I think that’s just … a lit­tle black girl from Compton not hav­ing any ex­am­ples of black women mak­ing their own movies.”

Af­ter re­leas­ing her first short film in 2006, it took Ava un­til 2008 to de­but as a full-length fea­ture direc­tor with the hip-hop doc­u­men­tary, This Is Life. She went on to di­rect sev­eral more doc­u­men­taries, in­clud­ing Venus Vs., about ten­nis star Venus Wil­liams. She has also di­rected ac­claimed fash­ion and beauty films for US cos­met­ics brand Fash­ion Fair and Italy’s lux­ury fash­ion house Prada, and sev­eral short films. She even di­rected an episode of the ma­jor TV series Scan­dal, which aired in South Africa as The Fixer.

Last year, Ava scored her first Os­car nod as a screen­writer – an­other first for a black woman – and went on to win a Pe­abody Award for her thought-pro­vok­ing doc­u­men­tary,

13th, which cov­ers the in­ter­sec­tion of race, jus­tice and mass in­car­cer­a­tion in Amer­ica. She was also awarded a Bafta for Best Doc­u­men­tary from the Bri­tish film academy for 13th. Cur­rently, she’s the cre­ator of the award-win­ning TV drama

Queen Sugar (air­ing lo­cally on Vuzu AMP) and is di­rect­ing Dis­ney’s science fic­tion film, A Wrin­kle In Time. Its $100-mil­lion bud­get shows that Dis­ney takes Ava se­ri­ously as a direc­tor – and yes, a bud­get that size is an­other first for a black woman. Also this year, Ava was named one of For­tune’s 50 Great­est World Lead­ers.

In 2011, the screen­writer founded an ad­vo­cacy group, the African-Amer­i­can Film Fes­ti­val Re­leas­ing Move­ment, ded­i­cated to in­creas­ing the num­ber of films made by peo­ple of colour and women. Born in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, Ava stud­ied English and African-Amer­i­can his­tory at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia. She cred­its her aunt, Denise Amanda Sex­ton, for get­ting her into film. At the Time 100 Gala – a din­ner cel­e­brat­ing the magazine’s an­nual list of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world, which, of course, fea­tured Ava – she said of her aunt: “She opened my win­dow to the world, which for me was the Image Cin­ema. We’d take the bus to the movies and we’d see the movie, and then we’d talk and talk and talk and talk about it af­ter­wards, which for a lit­tle girl is a big deal when some­one just talks to you.”

In 2015, Ava had a Bar­bie doll made in her image, as part of Mat­tel’s col­lec­tion of six “Sheroes” – per­haps the surest sign of her rise to iconic sta­tus. The doll comes com­plete with a direc­tor’s chair and sports Ava’s trade­mark dread­locks.

The direc­tor is vo­cal about the strug­gles of black women in film. Ear­lier this year, she re­minded fol­low­ers in a tweet that of the 900 top-gross­ing films that hit the big screen in the past nine years, only 34 were di­rected by women. In fur­ther tweets, she pointed out that only three black women got to di­rect a top­gross­ing film be­tween 2007 and 2016. Then she dropped the zinger: “Be­ing one of these doesn’t make me proud. It up­sets me.”

So it’s no sur­prise that Ava re­mains un­apolo­get­i­cally prob­lack in her work, gen­er­ally hiring black women as ac­tresses and be­hind the cam­era. She en­gaged only fe­male direc­tors for both sea­sons of Queen Sugar, most of whom were black.

She doesn’t talk about her per­sonal life, so no one knows her re­la­tion­ship sta­tus – although she’s been linked to rap­per Com­mon, who starred in Selma and created its Os­car­win­ning theme song, Glory, with John Leg­end. All Com­mon said about the gos­sip is: “Ava is one of the great lead­ers I have been around. She made us all feel that we were part of some­thing special. I see the [Selma] back­ground ac­tors com­mit­ted and not do­ing fake things – that’s a tes­ta­ment to the direc­tor.”

TOP TO BOT­TOM: AVA’S TV HIT QUEEN SUGAR, THE AC­CLAIMED SELMA, AND SUN­DANCE FILM FES­TI­VAL WIN­NER MID­DLE OF NOWHERE.

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