Ava DuVernay on Race and Why Hollywood Won’t Let Directors of Color be Great

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 07, 2015

In a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is exploring the structures that devalue the very existence of an entire group of Americans, writer Trymaine Lee sat down with award-winning director Ava DuVernay to discuss the importance of telling the many, varied stories of the African-American experience. What resulted was a candid conversion on how race and activism impact her work, the difficulty of making Hollywood films and why it’s important to support movies made by women and people of color. Here are a few choice quotes:

Artists reflect what’s happening in the world, so it remains to be seen what art comes out of this cultural moment. I think you are seeing it manifesting in music because music is more of an immediate medium. But film is a long-tailed kind of thing. It takes a while to get a film up and running. Anyone who was writing last summer, this summer, if they are lucky and they are one of the very few who makes their own film or is financed by someone, that work won’t come out until later next year. So, it remains to be seen what this cultured moment— what impact it’ll have on artist in the film space. But I’m wildly interested in figuring it out what it looks like. …

Any film that you see that has any progressive spirits that is made by any people of color or a woman is a triumph, in and of itself. Whether you agree with it or not. Something that comes with some point of view and some personal prospective from a woman or a person of color, is a unicorn. … When you just imagine that there’s one type of voice that’s really being pushed to the forefront is the white male voice. In terms of cinema, it’s really clear that the rest of us are locked out. So it becomes imperative that people—audiences that want to see that, fight for it, push for it. Support it when it comes, but also artists just become really vocal. …

Our art, our artistry, our craft is a space that I had to carve for myself and the same way that I had to carve out Array because I cannot trust that ten years from now I’ll still be the flavor of the month and the studios still want to distribute my films. So I have to create an entity that is constantly growing, so that there’s always place for me to go, for people like me to go. And that’s because I’m very, very sober and clear about where I work. Where I work is in an industry that really has no regard for my voice and the voice of people like me and so, what do I do? Keep knocking on that door or build your own house?

Read the full interview over at NBC News