Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay

Born in Long Beach, CA, Ava Marie DuVernay started her career as a publicist, founding The DuVernay Agency, a.k.a. DVA Media + Marketing, and providing services for a variety of television and film projects, including "Girlfriends" (UPN, 2000-06; The CW, 2006-08), "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), "Dreamgirls" (2006) and "Cop Out" (2010). Through the course of her work, she noted the lack of funding and support for African-American independent films, and set her sights on helping to remedy the problem. She made her writing and directing debut with the short "Saturday Night Life" (2006) before writing, directing and producing the alternative hip-hop documentary "This is the Life" (2008). Jubilant and charming, the film made quite the critical splash, winning awards from the Hollywood Black Film Festival, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival and the Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival, as well as a Black Reel Award nomination.Buoyed by her success and committed to helping tell important stories, DuVernay produced and directed the Black Reel-nominated "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop" (BET, 2010) but made her narrative debut by writing, directing and producing "I Will Follow" (2011), a tale of a young African-American woman coming to terms with her aunt's death and her attempts to rebuild and restart her own life in the shadow of such loss. The powerful indie, shot and released on a shoestring budget, impressed many critics, and earned two Black Reel Award nominations as well as mainstream media attention when many outlets, including the New York Times, covered the fact that the film marked the first release of DuVernay's African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), an attempt to help change the overwhelmingly white face of up-and-coming independent film.She achieved an amazing breakthrough with her next writing-directing-producing effort, the downbeat but dazzling drama "Middle of Nowhere" (2012), the tale of a young nurse (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who gives up much of her own life and goals to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick). Inspired by the strength and heartbreak of neighborhood women in similar situations, DuVernay's film delved into the complicated feelings, lingering sacrifices and divided loyalties in both inmates as well as loved ones left outside. It also offered viewers a rare non-stereotypical onscreen portrait of fully realized, complex African-American characters. Nominated for a Gotham Award and a Humanitas Prize, "Middle of Nowhere" also earned a Grand Jury Prize nomination from the Sundance Film Festival. DuVernay herself made history when she became the first African-American to win the Directing Award from Sundance. DuVernay's next film, "Selma" (2014), dramatized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggles during the era-defining civil rights march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Powered by David Oyelowo's magnetic performance as King, "Selma" earned both critical acclaim and box office success on a greater level than DuVernay's earlier films. DuVernay's next major project was the television series "Queen Sugar" (OWN 2016-), executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. In 2016, she was announced as the director of the film adaptation of children's fantasy best-seller "A Wrinkle In Time." By Jonathan Riggs