Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Ava DuVernay makes history this week as the first African-American woman to have a film in competition at the Venice Film Festival. your film, Origin, premiered on Wednesday and was acquired by Neon for U.S. distribution a day before its debut. It has already been described as “dazzling“”monumental,” And “fascinating and vital,But in a press conference, DuVernay said she was advised countless times not to enter the festival at all.
“As black filmmakers, we are told that people who love films in other parts of the world don’t care about our stories and don’t care about our films. We’re often told this: ‘You can’t play at international film festivals and no one will come,'” DuVernay said. “’People won’t come to the press conferences, people won’t come to the P&I screenings. They will not be interested in selling tickets. You might not even come to this festival, so don’t apply.’”
Origin is an adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Caste: The origins of our dissatisfaction, A moving look at how the division of people by class, race, and other groups around the world keeps racism alive in the United States. The film also explores how Wilkerson ended up writing the book Reutersand it plays the main role Aunjanue Ellis as Wilkerson, along with Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood and Victoria Pedretti. DuVernay said the cast probably wouldn’t have been what it is if the film hadn’t become an independent production from Netflix. “The studio system is a place where I’ve worked and done projects that I’m proud of, but there really is an aspect of control over who plays what,” she told reporters. “And there’s an idea of who makes money, who gets attention, and sometimes that conflicts with who might be the best person for the role. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor was the best cast for the role.”
DuVernay made history several times. With her 2014 film Selmaa biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., she became the first African-American woman nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and an Oscar for Best Film. Speaking in Venice on Wednesday, she said she hoped her entry would lead to others following in her footsteps.
“This year something happened that hadn’t happened eight decades before: an African American woman competing,” she said. “So that’s an open door that I trust and hope the festival stays open.”