Ava DuVernay on the Liberating Power of Storytelling
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Ava DuVernay is slowly changing the face of the film industry.
By Sean Braswell
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay sat down with OZY’s co-founder and CEO on The Carlos Watson Show to talk about her approach to storytelling and helping other storytellers tell their stories. Here are some of the best bites from their hourlong conversation, which can be found on The Carlos Watson Show podcast feed.
Her Path to Storytelling
Carlos Watson: How did you come to becoming a storyteller?
Ava DuVernay: No, no one in my family did it professionally, or was, I’d say, formally into it. I think Black folk and people of color have all kinds of cultural traditions that are oral, that are about that sharing. That’s how we’ve survived in this country with everything stripped from us. It’s a sharing, it’s an oral passing, it’s a verbal. So that was certainly a part of it, but my Aunt Denise loved movies. And so growing up, she would take me to the movies with her and really fell in love with it, right alongside her. And saw it as a powerful tool as I grew older and started to study Black liberation and American history and world history, really saw how story can be used to subjugate and oppress. It can also be used to get free. And so that’s why I work within that space.
Helping Others Start Their Journey
CW: You now clearly have crossed over from someone who’s been on the journey to someone who’s helping other people launch their journeys.
AD: I think I’m the most surprised that I’m a distributor of other people’s films. I didn’t even know how to make my own film, let alone being an advocate for and a mentor for, and a champion for other people’s films as a distributor. At ARRAY [her film collective], we’ve been releasing films now for nine years, and we do small but very kind of handmade campaigns that have just got a whole bunch of Black woman’s love in it. All the women who work on these projects … under ARRAY are really passionate about these images and the idea that we should be able to see stories by different kinds of filmmakers. And we know that the predominant kind of filmmaker that Hollywood supports is a white male filmmaker. That is not a hyperbole, that is a hard fact. And so … if we’re interested in seeing all kinds of stories by all kinds of people, then we go out and we look for the ones of those that move us the most.
On Changing the Face of Hollywood
CW: Would you tell me about white allyship and what you’re seeing in Hollywood now in light of all the conversations we’re having around race? Has anything changed meaningfully? Are you substantially hopeful?
AD: I think it still remains to be seen what people actually do that is connected to what they said. You had a lot of people saying a lot of things over the summer. And I believe in giving people time so we can really see, well, what do you do about it? And so it hasn’t been even six months, and so I’m going to be humane and patient. But after that, I’m going to be knocking on some doors and making some phone calls. “You said it, then you got to be about it.” Right? And if you said it and you’re not about it, then it needs to be said that you’re not. And so I think that is particularly true for the studios, particularly true for networks, particularly true for all of these brands. What did you do about that thing? If you thought that just a social media post was enough, you were wrong.