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Ava DuVernay Becomes First Black Woman to Compete in the Venice Film Festival

Date: 2023-09-11

Ava DuVernay Becomes First Black Woman to Compete in the Venice Film Festival

The filmmaker makes history as the first African American woman in the festival’s 80-year existence to have a film compete for the Golden Lion. By: Theng Min Yee

Speaking at the Venice Film Festival press conference about her film Origin, the director shared that she was advised against applying to the festival, by people who told her that her film would not make it. Against this backdrop, DuVernay’s nomination is all the more monumental, making history as the first Black woman to have a film competing for the prestigious Golden Lion.

Duvernay’s film Origin stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Jon Bernthal. According to the official synopsis, the film “chronicles the remarkable life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates the genesis of injustice and uncovers a hidden truth that affects us all.”

Speaking to the press, DuVernay said, “For Black filmmakers, we’re told that people who love films in other parts of the world don’t care about our stories and don’t care about our films. This is something that we are often told: you cannot play international film festivals, no one will come.”

“People will not come to the press conferences; people won’t come to the P&I screenings. They will not be interested in selling tickets. You might not even get into this festival, don’t apply. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, ‘Don’t apply to Venice, you won’t get in. It won’t happen.’ And this year, something happened that hadn’t happened in eight decades before: an African American woman in competition. So now that’s a door open that I trust and hope the festival will keep open,” she remarked.

Inspired by the New York Times bestseller Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, the film also stars Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, Connie Nielsen, Emily Yancy, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Finn Wittock, Victoria Pedretti, Isha Blaaker and Myles Frost.

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