What Ava DuVernay Told Q-Tip at Their Tribeca Film Fest Event

By Qimmah Saafir Apr 23, 2015

A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip interviewed screenwriter/director Ava DuVernay at the Tribeca Film Festival panel on April 22. The artists discussed, among other topics, DuVernay’s “Selma,” her recent move to television, set lighting for black people and her overall mission.

DuVernay revealed the gratification that comes with writing “For Justice,” her upcoming CBS drama pilot about an FBI agent who works in the criminal section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division: 

There’s something in the piece that I want to be on television. It’s about this elite group of freedom fighters that work for the DOJ, and they’re a combination of lawyers and FBI agents. Every week they solve a different civil rights abuse. So every week, the country will be able to see a case solved about anti-Muslim sentiment, or something around Ferguson or a transgender murder. These elements, in the umbrella of a procedural, you’re actually able to give some information about people on the outside, on the margins. I love that.

She talked about making “Selma” with a big film studio:

I did have final cut so I always knew the final vision would be mine, which is really rare, but you do have to work in a collaborative manner, and it’s really interesting to work with people in a collaborative manner who might not be used to working in a collaborative manner. I think they know what they’re talking about from their perspective, which is business; my perspective is from the creative side. Sometimes those two don’t mix.

Q-Tip mentioned her overall success in “captur[ing] African-American or black on film” and she expounded:

We were playing with the idea of how black people look in dark rooms. When I go in my house at night, the light’s not on — what does that look like? So often, folks are afraid to put in darker hues against backdrops because you’d only see teeth and eyes, you know what I mean? That’s not necessarily the case, and sometimes it is the case, and it’s beautiful. We were always playing with the idea of the black body, and deconstructing that in all types of ways.

And DuVernay shared why she creates:

My mission in all of my work, truly, is to magnify the magnificence of black people, which is basically a longer way of saying, ‘black lives matter.’ If we don’t do it, who’s gonna do it? If a woman filmmaker doesn’t take special care of a woman character, who’s does it? It’s not gonna be the man. … It’s not gonna be the filmmaker that doesn’t know it. There are some instances where special things shine through, but overall, it’s no one else’s responsibility to make the things that I want to see. If I want to see them, then I need to make them, if I’m able, and I am.

Read the whole thing.