Producer, director, and filmmaker Ava DuVernay is using her gifts to further amplify stories of those impacted by police brutality and injustice.
The “When They See Us” creator started the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP) in an effort to pave the way for “storytelling through the lens of police accountability.” The initiative has plans to fund 25 various types of artistic projects, ranging from film and theater to dance, photography, and music, over the next two years.
“LEAP is specifically looking at storytelling through the lens of police accountability,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published June 8. “There is a lack of accountability happening at police departments, police unions and in the courts, a lack of laws on the books that really protect citizens from officers who have a certain number of grievances. The idea is that if the courts won’t do it, if the police unions won’t do it, if the departments won’t do it, then people can do it.”
DuVernay was inspired to create the initiative, which will operate through her Array media company, after watching the cellphone footage of George Floyd‘s death throes under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman and realizing that in many of the cases of police brutality against Black people, the cops involved end up remaining largely nameless and faceless when compared with their victims.
“I’m used to watching racist, violent images,” DuVernay told the Washington Post. “So why did George Floyd’s final moments devastate me like it did? I realized that it was because this time the cop isn’t hidden behind a body cam or distorted by grainy surveillance video. This time, I can see the cop’s face. As a viewer, there are several times when he even looks right at me.”
The “13th” director wants to make sure the perpetrators of these crimes receive all of the attention and notoriety that they deserve. “Then … I started to realize how rare that is,” she continued. “And that led me to think, ‘how many of these police officers do we never see?’ They disappear, end up leaving town, and show up in another department. Their names are said, but it’s never amplified and it’s kind of like this group contract. Somehow, we, as American citizens, have agreed to not speak their names. I do not agree to that anymore.”
LEAP’s initial budget is reportedly set at $3 million, thanks to contributors like “American Horror Story” producer Ryan Murphy and the Ford Foundation.
“The way Ava explained it was so eloquent and made so much sense for me,” Murphy said, according to the Washington Post. “The time for reform is now. I just think it’s a very, very smart thing to do.”
“She’s one of the great documentarians and filmmakers in the country and has a sensibility for justice and fairness,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, about the organization’s decision to donate. “And she has an incredible network and will attract some of the most talented filmmakers and artists in the country.”
DuVernay says audiences can look forward to the debut of the first finished work from the initiative this August.