How Ava DuVernay Redefined Hollywood
Women literally rule the world. They bestow so much magic in the creative industries, that it’s hard to not take a look. That’s why Ava DuVernay, is the perfect addition to this catalog of women. DuVernay is a distributer, writer, producer, and Oscar -winning director of independent film. Embarking on all of these facets of creativity, she makes art that looks directly at society, and takes perspective on it. Mass incarceration is something that is important to her , further understanding the trauma this can have on the black family today. Filmmaking to her means cultivating beauty in the world, stirring strong and willful emotions in viewers. Her art is in a sense, a weapon which she exerts with caution and love, because she believes in fighting for good. This is why films such as Selma ( bringing to life Martin Luther King and his historic march) and Nova, Charley and Ralph Angel in “Queen Sugar” being brought to life , are multi-dimensional characters that viewers built a sense of empathy for them in a world that’s not so sympathetic to them. DuVernay takes things that are dear to her- the representation of family, black womanhood , and good over evil- crafting realistic depictions of people we admire and love.
As a child, her aunt Denise helped cultivate this love of art within her , but also showed her that advocation could still be expressed within her art, which became a huge influence in her artistic journey. Her aunt ( who was a registered nurse) worked at night to pursue her dreams of literature and theater during the day , showing that your passions can always be pursued for your own peace of mind and the betterment of life around you.
DuVernay is valiant in an industry that barely witnesses black women directors, write films and TV scripts , or maintain long lasting careers. She started out as a phenomenal publicist for her firm on big budget films such as the 2011 Oscar-winning The Help and Dreamgirls , (talk about a boss babe!). That helped her create an advantage for herself in film. Over the course of the years , she crested a vision and a voice that became a reality as she made more documentaries and films that effortlessly utilized advocacy and art to create something poignant. Her keen eye for art not only apprises her work, but also indicates how she works as well. In planning for her TV series “Queen Sugar,” ( which has had a two-season run on the OWN network and greenlighted for a third) she made a list of all the possible directors she could use, only to realize they were all women. These women (17 of them ) directed nearly 30 episodes of the first two seasons, making this an integral beginning to more women behind the camera.
Moreover, Selma is the story of a strides towards freedom. The film zeros in on a rough three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a perilous march to help enact voting rights for black Americans.
DuVernay includes the sense of revelation in the representation of black people in this country. Black Americans have several decades of literature, film, and art that bear the burden of truth to black Americans methods of survival in the United States- much of it being heart-wrenching and moving . It’s a confirmation of the fight and struggle to matter, giving into the narrative that all black art is political .
Her work however means so much more . It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing a different side to people, that is rarely portrayed in film - a sense of vulnerability . The characters in “Queen Sugar” expresses their emotion through crying or weeping when they are sad , happy , or conflicted . It’s the sense of feeling safe to be authentic in the fact that we don’t ever have to be the strongest or emotionless , even in a world that demands it . It’s okay to feel .
DuVernay films defy the cultural norms of society. They often seek to break the tradition of the dehumanization of black people and their bodies within the scope of media. So often the standard depiction of black people is that there is only suffering, yet she conjures up the power of imagery to make the viewer show empathy towards suffering . This effect is prevalent in her documentary 13th, which touched on the racially charged injustices in the United States criminal justice system. One clip after the next in the film, shows black women and men who have died at the hands of police brutality. By the immediate effects this has on people, it causes multiple systems in power to repeatedly cause damages, making this aspect crystal clear. The audience feels the universal sadness of human tragedy on the TV screen, which happens time and time again. There is no room to speculate the notion of police brutality, yet “all lives matter.”
DuVernay also emboldens the viewers to appreciate the beauty of black essence, whether that’s the body or the vitality of black life handled through the lens of love. For “Queen Sugar” , it begins with closeup views of a woman’s hair, legs, and arms ( we later know her as Nova) . The way in which the camera is used to showcase these areas of her body indicate a delicate embrace of sorts. We understand the beauty of shining skin, and tousled hair are determinants of broadening perspectives on what it means to love the fundamental nature of someone.
As viewers, we understand that when Charley was framed by the life she’s fighting so hard to understand, Nova and Ralph Angel’s face just break apart when he’s standing in the fields , trying to hold onto the land he possesses currently. This moment of refrain is also notable in the 13th when photos raced across the screen of black people from all walks of life (young or old ) being affectionate with the people around them through smiling , hugging ,and cooking with their loved ones .
All in all, with the culmination of her artistry brings, it brings forth the celebration of the flaws in humanity. A river of black happiness amongst oppression. This is her voice. This is her vision for the world. We are people that are capable of compassion.
Cover via The Source