The Importance of Ava DuVernay

Around two years ago I stumbled across Selma by accident while flipping through Sky On Demand. I’d heard a little about the film through Twitter and figured I might as well watch it.

Within the first fifteen minutes, I was transfixed.

The sounds of an explosion as five young girls are flung into the air, accompanied by the image of their bodies flying in slow motion past the camera seared itself into my brain. To this day I remember the shock and sadness that passed like a wave through me as I sat, almost unable to move. It sounds overdramatic and maybe a little cheesy but it’s true.

As the credits rolled I saw a name: Ava DuVernay. This film. This beautiful, breathtaking, powerful film was directed by a woman. For some of you reading this it might seem like a strange thing to comment on, but I couldn’t actually remember ever seeing a film directed by a woman before. Think about that: there I was, 14 years old, with aspirations to become a film director, and I had never seen a memorable female-directed film. All the directors I looked up to, everyone I aspired to be, were men.

There’s a sense of defeat looking at the list of winners for the Academy Award for Best Director and seeing one name that is like your own. There’s a sense of defeat when Selma was nominated for Best Picture but it’s stunningly talented director was not afforded the same honour in the Best Director category. There is a sense of defeat when despite making up 51% of the planet, your gender has never occupied more than 29% of the top roles in the career you wish more than anything to pursue.

Directing films is my dream – but it is hard to pursue a dream when no one shows you the way, when there is no precedent for your dream (or 29% precedent if you’d prefer to think about it that way) That is why I am so grateful to Ava DuVernay for doing what she is doing and proving that it can be done. Just today I watched 13TH and was blown away – if you haven’t seen it already please do (it’s available on Netflix).

Anyway that was my rambling for the day. Let me know what you thought.

– Lydia



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