Selma Director Ava DuVernay On Why She Wants To Be Defined As A ‘Black Woman Filmmaker’

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 17, 2015

Ava DuVernay, whose film “Selma” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture this year, says she is unequivocally proud to be identified as a “black woman filmmaker”—even as other directors run from the label. 

In her eight-part interview with, which bills itself as the largest video collection of women’s stories, the Compton-born director shares how she first came to love movies, her inspiration to transition from film publicist to filmmaker, and the importance of owning who you are as an artist.

“I know and I’ve heard of people saying, ‘I don’t want to be defined as a woman filmmaker’ or ‘I don’t want to be defined as a black filmmaker.’ All good with me, but I want to be defined as a ‘black woman filmmaker,’ because that’s the lens through which I’m working. That is my gaze. I’m proud of it. I don’t feel like it’s any less or limiting. I’m a black woman filmmaker and my films are just as valid as the white man filmmaker and whoever else,” she said in the installment titled “I’m a Black Woman Filmmaker.” “Why do we have to strip? Why do we have to strip off who we are to fit into some dominant culture? Say what you are. Be proud of what you are. That doesn’t mean you’re not also just a filmmaker. But you’ve got something special, like, that’s awesome.”

DuVernay also talks about the experience of directing an episode of “Scandal,” the importance of mentorship and making your own way, and why the gatekeepers are losing their grip on the industry. Her filmography includes her first feature film, “I Will Follow,” 2012’s “Middle of Nowhere” (for which she won the Best Director Award at Sundance) and her upcoming drama series “Queen Sugar,” which will air on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. Watch a clip below.