Ava DuVernay Speaks Passionately on Ageism in the Film Industry in Support of ‘Sankofa’ Filmmaker Haile Gerima

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Filmmaker Haile Gerima
Filmmaker Haile Gerima

By Sonia Montalvo

On Monday, Selma director Ava DuVernay sprang into a noteworthy Twitter rant. DuVernay entered Twitter with the intent to show her support for independent filmmaker, Haile Gerima. The critically-acclaimed filmmaker is currently hosting a crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming project, Yetut Lij (Child of the Breast).

DuVernay began by sharing a piece from OkayAfrica about Gerima and his overall career and impact on the film industry. In a series of tweets, Duvernay freely expressed her disappointment in the lack of support Gerima has received thus far, as well as her stance on ageism in the film industry.

“The great Martin Scorsese is 72. Woody Allen makes a film every year. He’s 79. Eastwood too. He’s 85. Creativity is ageless,” she tweeted, cementing her thoughts with the hastag, #HaileGerima. “These artists have one thing in common. Wondering: Where are filmmakers of color and women of a certain age? Women Filmmakers. Filmmakers of color making work in America [with] consistency past 60. Bueller? Why aren’t we supporting them? There’s a filmmaker named #HaileGerima. A giant of cinema. A giant, I say. He is the director of the seminal film SANKOFA. We ignore him.”

Haile Gerima, although born in Ethiopia, is based in the United States. Gerima, who has been in the filmmaking industry since the 1970s, is responsible for thought-provoking and award-winning  films such as 1979’s Bush Mama, his 1993 film, Sankofa, and 2008’s Teza.

Gerima is seeking to raise $500,000 to produce Yetut Lij. So far, the IndieGoGo crowd funding page for the movie has raised a little over $40,000. DuVernay, clearly upset about the film not receiving more financial support, went on to articulate her disdain.

“A legend among us. A beacon to a generation. Yet we allow #HaileGerima to crowd fund his next film and not even reach 50% of his goal. Who gets to tell his stories? There are 60 hours left [in] his campaign It doesn’t have to end like this,” she tweeted. “I want to make films until I’m an old lady calling Action. What women do I look to? Agnes Varda. Who else help me name them.”

DuVernay also touched on the lack of  consistent support African American filmmakers receive. “This man has more creativity in his pinky right now at 69 than most of us in our all “primetime” put together,” she insisted.

Gerima, who is also featured in the 12-part film series, L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema and is a former professor at Howard University, is giving away incentives ranging from $5-$10,000 to those who donate, depending upon the amount given. Perks such as personal thanks, screenings of Sankofa, production notes, an inside subscription to Yetut Lij, master classes, and even an opportunity to join the cast or crew are among the incentives being offered.

DuVernay brought her Twitter rant to a close with one last powerful observation.

“When someone touches my hair, the tweets go viral. When I tweet about ageism in film and the giant #HaileGerima? Crickets. Gotta love it. When a Barbie is made all the outlets cover. When an icon of cinema can’t reach 50% on his IndieGoGo campaign, Silence. #HaileGerima.”

There are currently less than two days left to donate to Gerima’s newest film, Yetut Lij.

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