Ava DuVernay: Director, Producer, and Screenwriter

By: Korrien Hopkins

There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a reflection as opposed to an interpretation.

Ava DuVernay is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972 in Long Beach, California. She was raised by her mother, Darlene, an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye. She grew up in Lynwood, California near Compton and graduated in 1990 from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and double majored in English Literature and African-American studies. During her summer vacations, she would travel to the childhood home of her stepfather, which was not far from Selma, Alabama. DuVernay said that these summers influenced the making of Selma and her successful career in film.

Prior to her filmmaking career, DuVernay worked as a publicist and marketer for 14 years. The award-winning firm she worked with provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors. These included directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, and Bill Condon. DuVernay is also the founder of ARRAY, a grassroots distribution and advocacy collective dedicated to strengthening films by people of color and women. DuVernay sits on the boards of both Sundance Institute and Film Independent and in 2017, DuVernay was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the U.S. Directing Award Dramatic for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and was the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma in 2014, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th in 2016. DuVernay’s latest film premiered March 9, 2018. The groundbreaking fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, had a budget exceeding 100 million dollars, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size. DuVernay was the first of many, setting the bar high and opening the door for future women of color filmmakers like myself. She continues to inspire many and displays what it is to be a phenomenal woman of history by using her power to share stories of those like us.