Director Ava DuVernay Talks ‘This is The Life’ and ‘Middle of Nowhere’

Indie director Ava DuVernay and her wonderfully shot depictions of African American life have been bubbling over since her directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed 2008 hip hop documentary, This is The Life. But it was her 2012 historic win at the Sundance Film Festival for her second feature, Middle of Nowhere, that has helped generate a much-needed buzz around Black film and their need for an audience.

She’s the perfect subject to close out our Black Making History campaign. As the first black woman to win the best director prize at Sundance, Ava prides herself on telling realistic stories about Black life and creating a platform to help other storytellers. Ava opened up about her journey and how Black audiences can access the films that tell the stories they desire to see.

Ava is a graduate of UCLA where she studied English and African-American studies.  And she began her career as a studio publicist for TV shows like Girlfriends and movies like Dreamgirls and The Help.  So how did she make the leap?  She tells us, “Being on a film set and being around directors, I started to catch the buzz and I said to myself, ‘I can do that. I have stories to tell. I wanna give it a shot.'”

But with bills to pay, Ava realized she needed to keep her full-time gig while exploring her newfound interest.  One year, she used her Christmas break to make a film (because she never went to film school, she considers that to be her first film). And with that … she became a full-fledged filmmaker.

“There was a lot of fear around it (making films), but one of the things that helped me was that I did it gradually. I think a lot people think that when they have a dream it needs to be all or nothing right away.  And I think it was really powerful for me to keep my one foot in what I knew and just dip my toe in experimenting and following the dream”…

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