#TIFF20: IN CONVERSATION WITH…. AVA DUVERNAY
By Mr. Will Wong
She’s been nominated for Oscars, juggling Writer, Producer and Director caps and TIFF was fortunate enough to have Ava DuVernay appear virtually for an In Conversation With… tonight with TIFF‘s Artistic Director and Co-Head, Cameron Bailey. DuVernay reflected on her career path which has included many firsts including being the first ever black female Director to be nominated for an Oscar with 2014’s Selma.
On the success of Netflix Documentary 13th which looks at the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery:
“Though you’d think it would be Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, most people know me internationally for 13th as those two didn’t get a wide release.”.
On the impact of Netflix‘s When They See Us. Bailey let DuVernay know that No. 1-ranked Tennis Player Naomi Osaka has been wearing masks donning the names of black people whose deaths have been named in protests against racial injustice. She was inspired by the DuVernay-created, written and directed Mini-Series.
“Did she do that really? This is a story of Black Criminalization. The idea black people are inherently criminal. It doesn’t matter that Cameron Bailey is the Maestro to one of the biggest Film Festivals in the world. He’s a black man and he will be suspected for whatever’s gone wrong within a two mile radius. This is ingrained in our systems. When you can find a story that allows you to interrogate this – like this particular story – about five boys and how young they were and their story was catapulted to the top of the news in the U.S. What did they do? Are you sure? Should they stop resisting? Where were their parents? All those questions make the victim accountable for a crime against them. As much as Trisha Meili (the victim) was traumatized, these boys and all their families were traumatized. When you convict one person, we see the tentacles of that accusation on a family and a generation. Making a five-hour Movie was an adventure, but a forum I really embraced because it allowed us to tell this story from boys to men and how the system applied to every stage of their lives.”.
Bailey asks DuVernay how she feels about this age of using image and video as evidence.
“We’re able to use it to further our cause, but it’s always been used as that. You saw white folks who’d go to lynchings and see bodies hanging as entertainment. Martin Luther King – and I wish I had time to name the rest – all the people who made Selma and the Civil Rights Movement happen. They all did it before cameras so that it could be talked about by following generations.”.
“Images bear witness to tell the story to change the story. We have to make sure it’ts not used as propaganda and is used for truth-telling and protection. I look forward to using image in a fashion not to state that we matter, as much as I’m an advocate and participant in the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m resentful we even have to say the words. Images help that conversation be had. Hopefully, we can keep looking at these things and get to a time when it’s not needed.”.
On balancing real-life trauma with her own vision:
“Asking people to relive a tough time in their life is difficult. But to be able to get them to participate, say their truth, see the Script, be on-set and look at Editing Room material – to be involved in a progressive way – helps them to recreate the process so it’s not so traumatic when they see it on screen and so they feel it’s part of their story.”.
On casting Toronto’s Stephan James in Selma:
“A friend of mine had seen him as a side character in something else. We couldn’t find his agent or the kid. Aisha Coley (Casting Director) found the kid and the agent, and the agent didn’t call back. We are down to the wire to cast this and we needed to see him. We say it’s for Selma and it’s Canada and they don’t know what that is! We get him on tape, off to Atlanta and he’s spectacular and sublime. He’s beautiful and eager and gave a great performance. I just see him and go ‘My little Stephan!’.”.
On creating a creative space:
“I’m always welcoming you into my space, ‘Come on in, this is my space!’. I expect everyone to treat the space with respect and others with respect. This is space we’re sharing, it’s like our home while we’re shooting. These are Mama’s rules and stay within rules you’ll be just fine. I believe in just being welcoming to people and being kind from Actors to Crew to Executives.”.
On “safe spaces”:
“We’ve progressed from 5, 10 years ago. You put the onus of nervousness on them. You didn’t do anything. We need to change our perspective on these things and not see yourself as a victim, but a victor. I went into a meeting where I was the only one like me and asked, ‘How many women, how many black people, are there any indigenous people?’. These are questions I need to know if i want to participate. Put the onus on those people who keep things looking one way and not on us.”.
In addition to producing a Netflix Series with Football star Colin Kaepernick which will be shooting in the next 4-5 months, DuVernay has series of Warner Bros. projects to come. Her Series Queen Sugar is now shooting with Crew and Cast having moved back to new Orleans.
(Photo credit: TIFF)
#FIRSTLOOK: NEW TRAILER “COLIN IN BLACK & WHITE”
Netflix has announced a new six-part scripted Series about Colin Kaepernick’s formative high school years, which he will narrate. Ava DuVernay and Kaepernick also will serve as Executive Producers alongside Writer Michael Starrbury. DuVernay and Starrbury last collaborated on Award-winning WHEN THEY SEE US for Netflix.
Titled COLIN IN BLACK & WHITE, the Series provides an introspective look at the Football star’s early life as a Black child growing up with a white adopted family and his journey to become a great quarterback while defining his identity.
More to come.
(Photo/video credit: Netflix)
#FIRSTLOOK: NETFLIX’S “WHEN THEY SEE US” FROM AVA DuVERNAY
Coming this May is a four-part Mini-Series on Netflix from acclaimed Director Ava DuVernay.
Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four part limited series will focus on the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.
The series stars Emmy Award® Nominee Michael K. Williams, Academy Award® Nominee Vera Farmiga, Emmy Award® Winner John Leguizamo, Academy Award® Nominee and Emmy Award® Winner Felicity Huffman, Emmy Award® Nominee Niecy Nash, Emmy Award® Winner and two-time Golden Globe Nominee Blair Underwood, Emmy Award® and Grammy Award® Winner and Tony Award® Nominee Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez and Asante Blackk.
Netflix stream WHEN THEY SEE US Friday, May 31, 2019.
(Photo credit: Netflix)
#GIVEAWAY: ENTER TO WIN PASSES TO AN ADVANCE SCREENING OF “SELMA” IN OTTAWA, TORONTO + MONTREAL
If there was any one Film gaining rapid momentum this Awards Season, that certainly would be SELMA! The Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic screened in Toronto last week to rousing reception. Paramount Pictures Canada and Mr. Will want Readers in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal to witness SELMA before everyone else! Screenings take place on Wednesday, January 7, 2015, our v. first in the New Year!
SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.
SELMA also stars Carmen Ejogo, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tim Roth, Giovanni Ribisi, Dylan Baker, Oprah Winfrey, Alessandro Nivola, Wendell Pierce and Henry G. Sanders.
See the Trailer:
To enter to win, simply click “like” on this Post at Mr. Will on Facebook. You may press the “share” button and share with your Friends on Facebook or Re-Tweet the below for an extra chance:
http://www.mrwillwong.com/selma @MRWILLW wants us to #win Passes to see #SELMAMovie in #OTT #YYZ + #MTL. Out 1/9!
Good luck, Willionaire$.
Paramount Pictures Canada release SELMA on Friday, January 9, 2015.
(Photo/video credit: Paramount Pictures Canada)
#SPOTTED: AVA DUVERNAY + DAVID OYELOWO IN TORONTO FOR “SELMA”
By David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
He may have missed out on a SAG award nomination earlier today, but you should start learning how to pronounce David Oyelowo’s last name come Oscar night.
Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay took the stage earlier tonight at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to present a special advanced screening of Selma, which chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. If the standing ovation for the actor and director after tonight’s screening was any indication, neither needs to worry about their award chances.
Scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance, the sold out crowd marveled at DuVernay’s thrilling dramatization and were treated to a lengthy post-screening Q&A. “It feels like the right time,” DuVernay said about what drew her to making a film about the civil rights activist, noting that there has yet to be a biopic about King at any time since his death in 1968. While the pair shared a number of interesting thoughts and anecdotes about filming, alongside opinions on the timely on-going events in Ferguson, Missouri, the liveliest moment came early on when Oyelowo started speaking with an English accent – initially shocking the crowd who had previously been listening to his near perfect recreation of King’s voice.
Special emphasis was placed on Stephan James, who practically steals the show as civil rights activist John Lewis. The Torontonian actor first met DuVernay at TIFF, later helping him obtain a ticket to her previous film Middle of Nowhere. He reminded her of the gesture during his audition for Selma.
DuVernay also spoke about her deliberate use of slow motion during the film’s most violent sequences. The spectacle is stripped from each of the four specific scenes, allowing the film to “force you to look at this”, instead of turning away or not registering what is being shown.
We’ll have a full review of Selma in the coming weeks, but this sure-fire Oscar contender is definitely a must-see! And for the record, Oyelowo’s last name is pronounced “oh-yellow-oh”.
Paramount Pictures Canada release SELMA on Friday, January 9, 2015.