The point is, even in the wake of recent efforts to expand the film industry’s consciousness, Black women continue to be underrepresented in the director’s chair. And once they get a break, it’s hard to stay there – consider Julie Dash and Leslie Harris, each of whom made one extremely well-received movie (Daughters of the Dust and Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., respectively) and then mostly dropped out of sight.
It’s in this context that the notable accomplishments of director Ava DuVernay are even more impressive. She’s only been making feature-length films for about 10 years – she first started to think about filmmaking when she was in her 30s – but in that time she’s accumulated a boatload of awards, some hefty box office receipts, and an Oscar nomination. Did I enjoy her big-screen adaptation of the classic novel A Wrinkle in Time? I did not. But that’s how you know the American film industry has broadened its range of opportunities: when a director from any background can make a misfire and still get to work again.
It’s DuVernay’s birthday on August 24, so commemorate the occasion by putting on one of her movies and enjoying the vision of a director who’s in the prime of her artistry. Unless you’re already invited to go to her party, in which case, I mean, good for you, do that.