Ava DuVernay on how she's using her influence to amplify marginalized voices in Hollywood
As the lights of the downtown Los Angeles skyline sparkled behind a drive-in movie screen Saturday night, Ava DuVernay welcomed 100 cars as they arrived for a special showing of Prince's 1984 musical drama Purple Rain. The screening was part of a two-night event orchestrated by the acclaimed director and her nonprofit organization Array Alliance, whose goal is to amplify BIPOC and women filmmakers globally.
In her welcome remarks, DuVernay reflected on being a young girl who loved watching movies and what a pleasure it was for her to host screenings of two of her favorite films (Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez, was shown Friday). The icing on the cake for the SoCal native was having her mother, Darlene, in the audience, watching her daughter proudly fulfilling her dreams and helping others do the same.
DuVernay spoke to EW exclusively about her mission to lift up filmmakers from marginalized communities, the emotional significance of this moment in her career, and what fans can expect from her newly announced HBO Max series One Perfect Shot.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: With your mom in the audience, has this event made you reflect on being a young film fan and how far you've come?
AVA DUVERNAY: Yes, it has! This night in particular because the screen is against the cityscape and when you stand in the back, you can see downtown L.A. and the movie. It's a combination of the two things I love, my city and movies. And with my mom here, I think it's a full-circle moment of dreams coming true. We picked Selena and Purple Rain because we wanted something Brown and something Black. We wanted something that people could sing along to but could also get emotional about.
I love Selena, the film is so good and I love the director, Gregory Nava. I made decisions about films based on the story and the director because if you're going to have a Brown film, I wanted to pick one that also had a Brown director, especially since I'm screening it in a community with a large Filipino and Latinx community. And I picked Purple Rain because it's just the perfect sing-along. The whole experience has been so wonderful!
During the preshow, we presented films that we are distributing and showing at our campus, and I can't help but think of how far we've come as a small nonprofit run by Black women. I'm really proud of tonight. Nights like this are fuel, and the energy adds to it. You do all the hard work so that you can have a night like this.
One of the films you previewed is Lingua Franca, just won the jury award for best narrative feature at Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Festival. Why was this title important for you to support?
At Array, we focus on Black artists, filmmakers of color, women, and directors of all kinds. Lingua Franca is written, directed, produced, and stars Isabel Sandoval, a trans Filipinx woman. Me, as a Black woman, I know I've had things tough, but for Isabel Sandoval… When you see someone who is working so hard but the industry isn't paying attention to them, it's wrong, so we'll do it. That's what we do at Array, and we have so much fun doing it. Make sure you watch it when it premieres on Netflix on Aug. 26.
The lines were really long, and due to limited space not everyone made it inside. With such high demand, do you plan on having more screenings?
I do, I do! We are a nonprofit, so the only way we were able to do this is with the help of sponsors. This event happened because of our partnership with Lyft, who gave us some money to put this together. Hopefully, if we can get some more sponsors, we can do it all again. The thing with L.A. is that the weather stays nice only for so long. We're thinking our next one might be close to Halloween, it might be fun!
It was recently announced that you're working on turning the popular Twitter feed One Perfect Shot into a series. What can you dish about that?
I love that Twitter account so much! I remember a couple of years ago writing them and saying, "You don't have enough women or people of color in the shots that you're using." So they started to change and I started to really follow them. When this idea came about making a show about directors talking about their favorite shot, it was exciting. We're doing this with HBO Max and we're in production now, but it's something for next year. You'll have to be a total film geek to enjoy this show!
We noticed there was a lot of excitement around our announcement, so I'm really happy about that. We have a lot of filmmakers doing it, some of the biggest filmmakers in the world are doing it. Fans can expect to see shots from iconic films where anyone could see the shot and know exactly which film it's from. And although I can't tell you more than that, you can expect to see BIPOC filmmakers getting some extra love. I can't do anything if this isn't at the forefront, and anybody who works with me knows that. If it doesn't have an inclusive environment below the line, above the line, then don't call me because I'm the wrong person for you.
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