Ava DuVernay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay in February 2015
Ava DuVernay in February 2015
Born Ava Marie DuVernay
(1972-08-24) August 24, 1972 (age 43)
Long Beach, California
Residence Los Angeles, California
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Director, screenwriter, film marketer, film distributor
Years active 1990–present
Notable work Selma
Home town Compton, California
Parent(s) Darlene Maye
Murray Maye
Website avaduvernay.com

Ava Marie DuVernay (born August 24, 1972) is an American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere,[1][2][3][4] becoming the first African-American woman to win the award.[5][6] For her work in Selma, DuVernay is the first black woman director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award.[7][8] With Selma, she is also the first black woman director to have their film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Early life[edit]

DuVernay was born in Long Beach, California, to mother Darlene Maye, an educator.[9] DuVernay is the oldest of the five children. DuVernay grew up in Lynwood, California[10] and Compton, California.[11][12][13] DuVernay's father, Murray Maye, a businessman, is from Hayneville, Alabama, a small town between Montgomery and Selma.[11][14][15] DuVernay spent summers in Hayneville.[16] DuVernay said that these summers in Alabama influenced the making of Selma, as her father saw the Selma to Montgomery marches as a small child.[11][17]

DuVernay attended Saint Joseph High School, where she graduated in 1990.[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]


While in college DuVernay became interested in broadcast journalism. While an intern for CBS News, she was assigned to help cover the O.J. Simpson murder trial. She became disillusioned with journalism, and decided to switch to publicity.[10][19][20]

Public relations[edit]

After graduation, she worked as a publicist.[19] DuVernay worked at FOX, Savoy Pictures[15] and other public relations firms for four years before forming her own agency, The DuVernay Agency, later known as DVA Media + Marketing, in 1999.[5] 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. DuVernay began with documentaries because they can be done on a smaller budget than a feature film, and she could learn the trade while doing so.[21]

In 2011, DuVernay's first narrative feature film, I Will Follow, a drama starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, was released theatrically. DuVernay's aunt Denise Sexton was the inspiration for the film.[5][13][22] DuVernay made the film in 15 days with her own money: DuVernay "kept costs under $50,000 by staying in one location."[13] Roger Ebert called it "one of the best films I've seen about coming to terms with the death of a loved one."[23][24] 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.

ESPN commissioned DuVernay to produce and direct Venus Vs., a documentary on Venus Williams' fight for equal prize money for their film series Nine for IX, which aired on July 2, 2013.[25]


DuVernay directed Selma, a $20 million budget film produced by Plan B Entertainment, about Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson, and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march.[26] The movie was released on December 25, 2014.[27]

There was significant controversy about Selma and its depiction of Lyndon Johnson's actions as portrayed in the film.[28][29] Former Johnson domestic policy aide Joseph A. Califano, Jr. criticized DuVernay for ignoring and falsifying history, and particularly for suggesting that Johnson reluctantly supported King's efforts and that he sent the FBI to investigate King.[30] For the film she did uncredited re-writes of most of the original screenwriter Paul Webb's script with an increased emphasis on King and the people of Selma as central figures.[31][32] In response to the criticisms of historians and media sources that accused her of irresponsibly rewriting history to portray her own agenda, DuVernay pointed out that the film is "not a documentary. I'm not a historian. I'm a storyteller".[33]

The film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song, but not Best Director, by the Academy Awards. While the lack of diversity of the Oscar nominations for 2014 was the subject of much press,[34] especially on Twitter,[35] the film of the only person of color that was nominated for the 87th Academy Awards, Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, ended up taking top honors in three categories at the ceremony – Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The award for Best Original Song went to "Glory" from Selma.[36][37] DuVernay stated that she had not expected to be nominated so the omission didn't really bother her; rather she was hurt by actor David Oyelowo not being nominated. As to the question of racial diversity of awards, she stated that the obstacles to people of color being represented in the Academy Awards were systemic.[35]


DuVernay directed episode 3.08 of Scandal which was called "Vermont is For Lovers, Too".[38]

In 2015 DuVernay executive produced and directed the CBS civil rights crime drama pilot For Justice starring Anika Noni Rose.[39] It was not picked up for distribution.

That same year DuVernay announced she would be creating and executive producing the upcoming drama series, Queen Sugar, alongside Oprah Winfrey. The drama was set to air on Oprah Winfrey Network.[40][41] In 2016 DuVernay announced that actress Rutina Wesley had been cast in the lead role.[42]

Future projects[edit]

In 2013, she announced development on a narrative feature film entitled Part of the Sky set in Compton.[43]

In 2015, it was announced that DuVernay would be writing, producing, and directing her next project, a fictional account which will focus on the "social and environmental" aspects of Hurricane Katrina while including a love story and a murder mystery.[44] David Oyelowo, from Selma, will be part of the project.[45]

Other work[edit]

Film distribution[edit]

See also: ARRAY

In 2010 DuVernay began AFFRM (the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement) her own company to distribute films made by or focusing on black people. [55]

In 2015 the company rebranded itself under the name ARRAY, promising a new focus on women filmmakers as well.

Artistry and influences[edit]

DuVernay has cited Haile Gerima, Julie Dash and Charles Burnett as her influences as a filmmaker.[56] DuVernay notes that while women directors are rare, black women filmmakers are rarer still – "a small sorority".[57] DuVernay influenced Manohla Dargis to suggest in 2016 "what might be called the DuVernay test, in which [movies pass when] African-Americans and other minorities have fully realized lives [in movies] rather than serve as scenery in white stories."[58]

Personal life[edit]

DuVernay resides in Los Angeles, California.[11]


Year Film Role Notes
TBD Queen Sugar Creator, executive producer, writer and director
2014 Selma Director/Co-writer African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Black Film Critics Award for Best Director
Black Reel Award for Best Director
Nominated–Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Nominated–Satellite Award for Best Director
Nominated–Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated–Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director
Nominated–NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Director
Nominated–Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director for Best Director
Nominated–Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
2013 Scandal Director Episode: "Vermont is For Lovers, Too"
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 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, nominations, honors[edit]

  • In June 2013, she was invited to both the director's and writer's branches of AMPAS.[59] DuVernay was only the second black woman, following Kasi Lemmons, to be invited to the director's branch.
  • Duvernay 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 she founded known as AFFRM.[60]
  • In June 2015, Duvernay will be honored as part of Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards with the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award.[61][62]
  • In April of 2015 DuVernay was chosen as one of Mattel's "Sheros" of 2015. As such a custom-made one-of-a-kind Barbie in DuVernay's likeness was produced. The doll was auctioned off with the proceeds given to charity.[63] Due to high demand, a collectible version of the doll was produced and sold in December of that year.[64]
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[65]
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Director Won
Breakthrough Film Artist Won
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award Best Director Nominated
Georgia Film Critics Association Best Director Nominated
Breakthrough Award Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Director Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Director Nominated
Best Woman Director Won
Female Icon of the Year Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Director Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Director Nominated
Film Independent Spirit Awards Best Director Nominated


  1. ^ Demby, Gene (January 30, 2012). "Sundance 2012: Ava DuVernay Becomes First Black Woman To Win Best Director Prize For Middle Of Nowhere. On June 22, 2015 she was announced as the director of the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther.". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ Barnes, Brooks (January 27, 2012). "Market for Films Signals Good, Not Great, Year for Sundance". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ Dargis, Manohla (January 27, 2012). "Amazing Child, Typical Grown-Ups". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ Savali, Kirsten West (January 29, 2012). "Straight Outta Compton: Ava Makes Black History At Sundance!". NewsOne. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Myers, Scott (June 10, 2013). "Interview: Ava DuVernay — Part 1". Go Into the Story. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  6. ^ Farabee, Mindy (December 20, 2012). "Ava DuVernay no longer in 'Middle of Nowhere'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Golden Globes: 'Selma's' Ava DuVernay Becomes First Black Woman to Receive Director Nomination". The Hollywood Reporter. December 11, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  8. ^ Suskind, Alex (December 17, 2014). "How Ava DuVernay struck a chord with Selma". The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Ava DuVernay: A New Director, After Changing Course". NPR. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Yuan, Jada (December 2, 2014). "With Her MLK Drama Selma, Ava DuVernay Is Directing History". Vulture. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d Zeitchik, Steven (October 31, 2014). "'Selma's' Ava DuVernay walks in King's footsteps". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ Hardy, Ernest (11 October 2012). "Middle of Nowhere Director (and Former Rapper) Ava DuVernay on the Future of Black Film". LA Weekly. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d King, Susan (March 11, 2011). "For Ava DuVernay, making 'I Will Follow' is personal". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ Levy, Emanuel (10 December 2014). "Selma: Interview with Director Ava DuVernay". Emanuel Levy. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Rickey, Carrie (October 5, 2012). "She’s a Graduate of an Unusual Film School". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  16. ^ Simon, Bob (8 February 2015). "Where 'Selma' Meets Hollywood" (TV interview/segment). 60 Minutes (CBS News). Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  17. ^ Edwards, Gavin (January 5, 2015). "We Shall Overcome: Ava DuVernay on Making 'Selma'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  18. ^ "SJ Alumna Receives A Golden Globe Nomination". St. Joseph's High School. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  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. ^ Brown, Emma (October 11, 2012). "In the Middle of Somewhere with Ava DuVernay and Emayatzy Corinealdi". Interview Magazine. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Middle of Nowhere – Writer/Director Ava DuVernay". Filmmaker Magazine. January 20, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Ebert Presents review of I Will Follow". Ebert Presents: At the Movies. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  24. ^ Roger Ebert (March 8, 2011). "Review of 'I Will Follow". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Nine for IX: 'Venus Vs.'". ESPN. 26 June 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  26. ^ Obenson, Tambay (July 11, 2013). "Huge! Ava DuVernay Tapped By Brad Pitt's Plan B To Take Over Lee Daniels' 'Selma'". Indiewire. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  27. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (June 20, 2014). "Ava DuVernay's 'Selma' Enters Oscar Race, Sets Christmas Day Release". Indiewire. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  28. ^ Chariton, Jordan (January 8, 2015). "‘Selma’ Director Ava DuVernay ‘Baffled’ By LBJ Controversy (Video)". The Wrap. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  29. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (December 31, 2014). "Depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson in ‘Selma’ Raises Hackles". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  30. ^ Califano Jr., Joseph A. (December 26, 2014). "The movie ‘Selma’ has a glaring flaw". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  31. ^ Hornaday, Ann (December 26, 2014). "DuVernay, David Oyelowo on breaking Martin Luther King Jr. out of myth and into life". Washington Post. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  32. ^ Brody, Richard (December 29, 2014). "The Crucial Lessons of Democracy in "Selma"". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  33. ^ Milliken, Mary (January 6, 2015). "'Selma' director makes history before awards are bestowed". Reuters. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  34. ^ Harris, Mark (January 28, 2015). "How ‘Selma’ Got Smeared: On historical drama and its malcontents". Grantland. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  35. ^ a b Goodman, Amy (January 27, 2015). "Selma Director Ava DuVernay on Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity, Oscar Snub and #OscarsSoWhite Hashtag". Democracy Now!. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  36. ^ "List of 87th Academy Award Winners". ABC News. Associated Press. February 23, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Oscars 2015: A Look at Biggest Latino Oscar Winners of the Past". LatinPost. February 22, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  38. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (July 12, 2013). "Ava DuVernay Will Direct An Episode Of 'Scandal' Next Season". Indiewire. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  39. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 10, 2015). "'Selma's' Ava DuVernay 'For Justice'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  40. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 2, 2015). "Oprah Winfrey To Co-Star In & Co-Create With ‘Selma’ Filmmaker Ava DuVernay ‘Queen Sugar’ OWN Drama Series". Deadline.com. Retrieved February 2, 2015. 
  41. ^ Wilson, Stacey (February 18, 2015). "'Selma' Director Ava DuVernay on 'Awkward and Weird' First Meeting With Oprah Winfrey". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  42. ^ Slezak, Michael. "Rutina Wesley Lands Lead in OWN's Ava DuVernay Drama Queen Sugar". Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  43. ^ "Heineken Affinity Award Presented by Tribeca Film Institute". Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  44. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa (January 26, 2015). "‘Selma’ criticism isn’t stopping Ava DuVernay". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  45. ^ Gettell, Oliver (January 26, 2015). "Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo to reunite on Hurricane Katrina drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  46. ^ "'The Door' by Ava DuVernay". Miu Miu. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  47. ^ Rothe, E. Nina (August 30, 2013). "Best of Venice 70: 'Miu Miu Women's Tales' – The Door and Le Donne della Vucciria". Huffington Post. 
  48. ^ "Ava DuVernay Celebrates The Beauty of Black Love in "Say Yes"". Shine. August 15, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  49. ^ Macaulay, Scott (September 19, 2013). "Ava DuVernay and AFFRM Launch Podcast, 'The Call In,' with Andrew Dosumnu". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  50. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (March 14, 2015). "‘Selma’s’ Ava DuVernay: ‘Studios Aren’t Lining Up for Black Protagonists’". Variety. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  51. ^ "Ava DuVernay Keynote". SXSW. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  52. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (March 17, 2015). "Watch Ava DuVernay's Rousing SXSW Keynote Address". Indiewire. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  53. ^ Canfield, David (March 18, 2015). "SXSW: The 7 Best Things We Learned From Ava DuVernay's Keynote Speech". Indiewire. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  54. ^ Abramovitch, Seth (March 14, 2015). "SXSW: Ava DuVernay Calls Oscars a "Room in L.A." at Rousing Keynote". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  55. ^ Cieply, Michael (January 7, 2011). "Building an Alliance to Aid Films by Blacks". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  56. ^ Cooper, Nekisa (November 1, 2012). "Love on the Outside". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  57. ^ Dargis, Manohla (December 2, 2014). "Making History: With ‘Selma,’ Ava DuVernay Seeks a Different Equality". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  58. ^ "Sundance Fights Tide With Films Like ‘The Birth of a Nation’". The New York Times. 30 January 2016. 
  59. ^ Weisman, Jon (June 28, 2013). "Film Academy Invites 276 New Members". Variety. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  60. ^ "Tribeca Film Institute's Inaugural Heineken Affinity Award Goes To Ava DuVernay ($20,000 + Industry Support)". Indiewire. April 21, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  61. ^ "Women in Film, Los Angeles Celebrates 2015 Crystal + Lucy Awards Honorees: Nicole Kidman, Jill Soloway, Ava DuVernay, Kate Mara, Sue Kroll and Toni Howard" (PDF). Women in Film. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  62. ^ Kang, Inkoo (March 31, 2015). "Nicole Kidman, Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway Among Women in Film's 2015 Crystal + Lucy Awardees". Indiewire. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  63. ^ Lee, Benjamin. "Holding out for a Shero: Selma director Ava DuVernay gets her own Barbie doll". Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  64. ^ Cunningham, Todd. "Ava DuVernay Barbie Doll to Go on Sale Monday, Director Says". Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  65. ^ "'Selma' dominates Black Film Critics Circle awards". HitFix. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014. 

External links[edit]