Ava DuVernay

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Ava DuVernay
AFI Film Festival 2010
Born Ava Marie DuVernay
(1972-08-24) August 24, 1972 (age 42)
Long Beach, California, U.S.[1] or Compton, California[2]
Residence Los Angeles, California
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Filmmaker, screenwriter, marketer
Years active 1999 – present

Ava Marie DuVernay (born August 24, 1972)[3] is an American filmmaker, marketer and film distributor. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere,[4][5][6][7] becoming the first African-American woman to win the award.[8][9] For her work in Selma, Duvernay is the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award.[10][11]

Early life[edit]

DuVernay grew up in Lynwood, California,[12] and Compton, California.[13][14] Her mother, born and raised in Compton, was a human resources executive at a hospital and later became a preschool director.[15] She married DuVernay's biological father when she was 16 before divorcing him; she later remarried. Her father was emotionally abusive towards her mother.[15] DuVernay and her two sisters were raised by her mother and stepfather, Murray,[16][12] who grew up in Alabama[14] and owns a carpet and flooring company.[17] Her aunt, Denise Sexton, was a registered nurse and a community theater actress who introduced DuVernay to movies.[8][13][18]

She graduated with a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1995, where she double-majored in English and African American studies.[13]

DuVernay became interested in producing for broadcast journalism. She was an intern for CBS News and worked on the national evening news with Connie Chung and Dan Rather during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. She became disillusioned with journalism, and decided to switch to publicity.[19][20]


Public relations[edit]

After graduation, she worked for a small studio as a junior publicist.[19] DuVernay worked at FOX, Savoy Pictures[17] and other public relations firms for four years before forming her own agency, The DuVernay Agency, later known as DVA Media + Marketing, in 1999.[8] The award-winning marketing and publicity firm has provided strategy and execution for more than 100 film and television projects by directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Bill Condon, Raoul Peck and Gurinder Chadha.


In 2008, DuVernay made her feature directorial debut with the documentary This Is the Life, a history of LA's Good Life Cafe's arts movement.

In 2010, she directed several network music documentaries, including My Mic Sounds Nice for BET Networks and the Essence Music Festival 2010 for TV One.

In 2011, DuVernay's first narrative feature film, I Will Follow, a drama starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, was released theatrically. Roger Ebert championed the film, stating: "'I Will Follow' is one of the best films I've seen about coming to terms with the death of loved one."[21][22] I Will Follow was an official selection of AFI Fest, Pan-African Film Festival, Urbanworld and Chicago International Film Festival.

In the summer of 2011, DuVernay began production on her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere. The film was acquired by AFFRM and Participant Media at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it played in U.S. Dramatic Competition and garnered the Best Director Award for DuVernay, the first African-American woman to ever win the prize. DuVernay also won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award for her work on the film.


DuVernay cited Haile Gerima, Julie Dash and Charles Burnett as her influences as a filmmaker.[23]

Current work[edit]

In 2013 DuVernay partnered with Miu Miu as part of their ad campaign Women's Tales.[24] Her short film The Door starred actress Gabrielle Union and reunited DuVernay with her Middle of Nowhere star Emayatzy Corinealdi. The film was later presented at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.[25]

She also became the inaugural recipient of the Tribeca Film Institute's Heineken Affinity Award, receiving a $20,000 prize and industry support for future projects. DuVernay donated all the money to the black arthouse film collective known as AFFRM.[26]

In June of that year, she was invited to both the director's and writer's branches of AMPAS.[27] DuVernay was only the second black woman, following Kasi Lemmons, to be invited to the director's branch.

A documentary produced and directed by DuVernay commissioned by ESPN for their film series Nine for IX on Venus Williams fight for equal prize money entitled Venus Vs. aired July 2, 2013.[28]

In July, it was announced that DuVernay would direct episode 3.08 of Scandal, later titled "Vermont is for Lovers Too".[29]

In August DuVernay released a second short film through Vimeo entitled Say Yes.[30] The film was sponsored by cosmetic brand Fashion Fair and starred Kali Hawk and Lance Gross. Julie Dash, Victoria Mahoney, Lorraine Toussaint and Issa Rae appeared as extras in the film.

DuVernay directed and co-wrote Selma, the Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon Johnson, and 1965 Selma to Montgomery march feature project produced by Plan B.[31] The movie was released on Christmas, 2014.[32]

Future projects[edit]

In 2013 she also announced development on a narrative feature film entitled Part of the Sky set in Compton.[33]

Film distribution[edit]

On January 7, 2011, an article entitled "Building An Alliance To Aid Films By Blacks" by Michael Cieply was published in The New York Times about DuVernay's effort to organize African-American film festivals and orchestrate theatrical releases for black independent films. The collective is called the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).

DuVernay's I Will Follow marked the first theatrical release of AFFRM on March 11, 2011. I Will Follow grossed a per-screen-average of $11,563, and expanded from five screens in five cities to 22 screens in 15 cities after its first weekend. AFFRM released the 2011 Sundance Audience Award-winner Kinyarwanda on December 2, 2011. AFFRM released the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection Restless City by Andrew Dosunmu in April 2012. AFFRM released Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere, Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for Best Director, on October 12, 2012. In 2013, AFFRM has released Storm Saulter's Better Mus' Come and Neil Drumming's Big Words. In 2014, AFFRM has so far released the BP Oil Spill documentary Vanishing Pearls by Nailah Jefferson.

Personal life[edit]

DuVernay resides in Los Angeles, California.[14]


Year Film Role Notes
2014 Selma Director Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Director
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated - Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director
2013 Scandal Director Television Episode
2013 Say Yes for Fashion Fair Director/Writer Branded Short
2013 Venus VS. Director/Writer Television Documentary
2013 The Door for Prada Director/Writer Branded Short
2012 Middle of Nowhere Director/Writer Won - U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic 2012 Sundance Film Festival
2011 I Will Follow Director/Writer Narrative Feature Film
2010 My Mic Sounds Nice Director/Executive Producer Television Documentary
2010 Essence Music Festival '10 Director/Writer Television Documentary
2010 Faith Through the Storm Director/Writer Television Documentary
2008 This Is the Life Director/Producer Feature Documentary
2007 Compton in C Minor Director/Producer Short Documentary
2006 Saturday Night Life Director/Writer Narrative Short

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2011 African-American Film Critics Best Screenplay I Will Follow Won
2012 Black Reel Awards Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Director Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Independent Motion Picture Nominated
Sundance Film Festival Directing Award Middle of Nowhere Won
Grand Jury Prize Nominated
Film Independent Spirit Awards Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award Won
Humanitas Prize Sundance Film Nominated
African-American Film Critics Best Independent Film Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Picture Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Woman Screenwriter Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle Josephine Baker Award Won
2013 Black Reel Awards Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Film Nominated
Gotham Awards Best Feature Nominated
2014 Online Film Critics Society Award Best Director Selma Nominated
Black Film Critics Circle Best Director Won[34]
Film Independent Spirit Awards Best Director Pending
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Director Pending
Satellite Awards Best Director Pending
Golden Globe Award Best Director Pending


  1. ^ "Ava DuVernay, Film "Middle of Nowhere" Reminds Us that Great Films Still Exist". TOAN Magazine. October 26, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ Hardy, Ernest (October 11, 2012). "Middle of Nowhere Director (and Former Rapper) Ava DuVernay on the Future of Black Film". LA Weekly. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ava O Duvernay". FamilySearch. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ Demby, Gene (January 30, 2012). "Sundance 2012: Ava Duvernay Becomes First Black Woman To Win Best Director Prize For Middle Of Nowhere". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ Brooks Barnes (January 27, 2012). "Market for Films Signals Good, Not Great, Year for Sundance". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ Manohla Dargis (January 27, 2012). "Amazing Child, Typical Grown-Ups". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ Kirsten West Savali (January 29, 2012). "Straight Outta Compton: Ava Makes Black History At Sundance!". Newsone.com. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Myers, Scott (June 10, 2013). "Interview: Ava DuVernay — Part 1". Go Into the Story. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ Farabee, Mindy (December 20, 2012). "Ava DuVernay no longer in 'Middle of Nowhere'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Golden Globes: 'Selma's' Ava DuVernay Becomes First Black Woman to Receive Director Nomination". The Hollywood Reporter. December 11, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ Alex Suskind, "How Ava DuVernay struck a chord with Selma", The Guardian, December 17, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Yuan, Jada (December 2, 2014). "With Her MLK Drama Selma, Ava DuVernay Is Directing History". Vulture. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c King, Susan (March 11, 2011). "For Ava DuVernay, making 'I Will Follow' is personal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Zeitchik, Steven (October 31, 2014). "'Selma's' Ava DuVernay walks in King's footsteps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Ava DuVernay: A New Director, After Changing Course". NPR. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  16. ^ Moore, Omar P.L. (March 11, 2011). "Ava DuVernay Opens Up The Door And Gets It Herself". The Popcorn Reel. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Rickey, Carrie (October 5, 2012). "She’s a Graduate of an Unusual Film School". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Middle of Nowhere - Writer/Director Ava DuVernay". Filmmaker Magazine. January 20, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Wright, Bekah (October 1, 2012). "Direct Action". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  20. ^ Stewart, Alicia W. (October 25, 2012). "Filmmaker Ava DuVernay uses a lens of legacy". CNN. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  21. ^ Roger Ebert. "Ebert Presents review of I Will Follow". Ebertpresents.com. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  22. ^ Roger Ebert (March 8, 2011). "Review of 'I Will Follow". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  23. ^ Cooper, Nekisa (November 1, 2012). "Love on the Outside". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  24. ^ ""The Door" by Ava DuVernay". Miu Miu. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  25. ^ Rothe, E. Nina (August 30, 2013). "Best of Venice 70: "Miu Miu Women's Tales" - The Door and Le Donne della Vucciria". Huffington Post. 
  26. ^ "Tribeca Film Institute's Inaugural Heineken Affinity Award Goes To Ava DuVernay ($20,000 + Industry Support)". Indiewire. April 21, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  27. ^ Weisman, Jon (June 28, 2013). "Film Academy Invites 276 New Members". Variety. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  28. ^ "NINE FOR IX: 'VENUS VS.'". ESPN. June 26, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  29. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (July 12, 2013). "Ava DuVernay Will Direct An Episode Of 'Scandal' Next Season". Indiewire. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Ava DuVernay Celebrates The Beauty of Black Love in "Say Yes"". Shine. August 15, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  31. ^ Obenson, Tambay. "Huge! Ava DuVernay Tapped By Brad Pitt's Plan B To Take Over Lee Daniels' 'Selma'". Indiewire. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  32. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (June 20, 2014). "Ava DuVernay's 'Selma' Enters Oscar Race, Sets Christmas Day Release". Indiewire. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  34. ^ "'Selma' dominates Black Film Critics Circle awards". HitFix. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014. 

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