#WomanCrushEveryday: Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay is an American director and screenwriter who has earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations for her deeply moving storytelling features.
A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she began her career in journalism, working for CBS news. She soon moved on to a career in PR and set up her own public relations firm. In 2008, she made her directorial debut with a documentary titled This Is the Life. Her decision to begin directing documentaries was to allow her to make films on a small budget, while also learning about the film-making process.
Her profile soon grew as she became the first African-American woman to win the prize of Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 for her film Middle of Nowhere. After the release of Selma to widespread critical acclaim, DuVernay's status ascended even further as her film was nominated at the Oscars for Best Picture in 2015. The film was based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches co-led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other activists. David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Oprah Winfrey were just some of the talented actors cast.
As 2015 was the year that #OscarsSoWhite was trending, many were disappointed that DuVernay herself, and the leading cast members, were not nominated for individual awards. DuVernay herself was unfazed. She argued that nominations for awards, or lack of, were only symptoms of a larger problem, and called for systemic change to ensure that more women, and people of colour, were able to take part in all levels of film making, from acting, directing, and other departments behind the camera. Her next documentary, 13th, focused on race in the United States criminal justice system, and featured several prominent politicians and public figures. The documentary earned both an Oscar and a BAFTA nomination.
DuVernay is that she strikes me as a woman who carves her own path, gets on with the what she feels needs to be done, and does a mighty good job of it. While campaigning for greater opportunities for women and people of colour, so that others can make it their own alongside her, she's cemented her status as a filmmaker with a strong social conscious.
Recently DuVernay became the first black female director to be placed at the helm of a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million, breaking yet another glass ceiling. This is thanks to her latest project – the Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time. Featuring an all-star cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, the film is set to release in 2018. You can follow Ava DuVernay on Twitter @ava.