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I’ve always fiercely held on to my blackness, says DuVernay

BLACK AND PROUD: Ava DuVernay

CELEBRATED DIRECTOR Ava DuVernay is renowned for her work that explores the black experience.

Films Selma and 13th have both explored civil rights and how African Americans have suffered at the hands of the justice system, and now DuVernay is returning to those themes in her new series When They See Us.

Referencing her past work, DuVernay has said that she would only be able to make When They See Us now, having done those projects.

Based on the story of the Central Park Five, a group of African American and Latino teenagers who were convicted of a rape they did not commit in 1989, the four-part series will stream exclusively on Netflix from Friday, May 31.

Through her filmmaking, her public support of black creatives and her early work as a film PR, DuVernay has always demonstrated extreme pride in being a black woman but also in providing a platform for complex and authentic portrayals of the community’s experiences. And it’s something she’s discussed in an interview published in The Guardian today.

“I’ve always fiercely held on to my blackness, felt very connected to black people and black culture, I think because I went to high school with no black people,” she told The Guardian.

While DuVernay, 46, famously only picked up a camera aged 32, she is no stranger to smashing glass ceilings. She became the first black woman to direct a $100 million dollar film, 2018’s A Wrinkle In Time, she is the first black woman to direct an Oscar-nominated film and in 2014 she became the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe. But while DuVernay’s rise has been relatively quick, Hollywood is still proving slow to catch on.

DuVernay revealed to The Guardian that she does not get a lot of offers to direct, and when she does, the projects are often period pieces or focused on women and black people.

“Like, I’m not getting John Wick 3, even though I’d love to make it. I have a good friend who directed second unit on Star Wars and is kicking ass. I have a friend who’s on Westworld right now. Are there enough of us? No. Certainly not for a lack of women being interested in or capable,” she said.

DuVernay’s definitely proven she’s more than capable and no doubt her new Netflix project, the trailers of which have already been praised, will prompt discussions around how black and ethnic minority people are mistreated by the justice system. Fans will hope her words, a rallying call for film and TV executives, and her work will prompt Hollywood bosses to think outside the box when it comes to inclusion.

Read the full interview here

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