Hollywood is going through a simultaneous inequality reckoning and filmmaking renaissance, and Ava DuVernay, the director of Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, stands at the helm of both movements. She is one of the many inspiring women who have come together across industries to demand equality, representation, and social justice. Female actors, producers, and directors are showing the industry the way it should work and DuVernay is making sure that her adaptation of the beloved young adult fiction book, now in theaters, displays how women can be heroes on the big screen and behind the camera.
W Hotels Worldwide kicked off its What She Said series for 2018 with an intimate evening of conversation with Ava DuVernay at W Hollywood, alongside an inspiring introduction from boundary-pushing poet Olivia Gatwood and activist and moderator Natalie Warne. This series, hosted by W Hotels, offers fertile ground to make change possible by giving voice to female heroes and trailblazers from every field. After hearing the powerful discussion, we rounded up some of the top reasons why DuVernay is our ultimate vision of the future of females in film, and why she will always have our complete attention.
She thinks differently, confidently
Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time may be based on the young adult fiction novel, but the unconventional move to cast women of all ages and ethnicities as the protagonists shows DuVernay’s unflinching dedication to making idols out of those the film industry and society rarely gives a chance. The decision to cast a non-white female as the protagonist has, in turn, created a wave of inspiration, specifically amongst young adults of color as they feel a sense of empowerment and importance not yet seen on the silver screen… until now.
She’s all about female power (and those who support it)
In her diverse projects to date, DuVernay has insisted that she have the power to make the decisions as to who she works with, regardless of gender. After all, she doesn’t just advocate for female power, she also supports the men who are contributing to the movement. “We have a long way to go and platforms like What She Said are helping to do the work,” said DuVernay at the What She Said talk. “Like film, conversations like these can be a vehicle for empathy, a place to speak honestly about difficult aspects of society today and perhaps most importantly, a space to celebrate one another.” To DuVernay’s point, What She Said is not just a platform for women, but rather a platform for all people who support female equality.
“My mother was always my Mrs. My champion.”
She’s representing a rising movement
Speaking of female power, this year’s movies have been packed with it, with directors like DuVernay making waves in the industry. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird have gotten both the critical acclaim and the funding they deserve. A small, but notable step, in the (still) male-dominated film industry. There’s a lot more of this to look forward to in 2018 with DuVernay’s next project, a television movie she’s writing and directing about the fashion designer feud of 1973 featuring big shots like Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent titled “Battle of Versailles.” And knowing DuVernay, it won’t be something we’re expecting, but certainly something we will be watching.
She’s not afraid to speak the truth
The director is not afraid to tell it like it is and brings politics to the forefront of the often sugar-coated world of Hollywood. Whether it was her Oscar-winning film Selma or her highly acclaimed 2016 Netflix documentary 13th, DuVernay continues to ask questions that are not conventionally discussed on the silver screen. But she knows the conversation needs to go beyond the movies: “Unless there is systemic change,” she says, talking about bringing these issues into her new film, “we’re just the sparkly stuff on top that makes people feel good.”
She’s advocating for global change
The opening weekend of Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time was the first time two films with black directors and mega budgets (the other being Black Panther) held the top two spots at the box office. And though this marks significant progress, DuVernay believes that for change to be sustainable, it must also be global – a sentiment that now serves as the impetus behind her involvement in the historic Times Up movement.
“Unless there is systemic change, we’re just the sparkly stuff on top that makes people feel good.”
About the panelists:
Oliva Gatwood is a poet and educator who has been a finalist at Brave New Voices, Women of the World and the National Poetry Slam. Her new book is called New American Best Friend.
Natalie Warne is an activist and filmmaker who has made a number of documentaries on human rights issues and works to mobilize young people to be more politically active. She was one of the minds behind Obama’s 2008 HOPE campaign and has given multiple TED Talks.
Ava DuVernay is an Oscar-nominated director and writer for films and documentaries that touch on social injustice. Her most recent film is Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time.