Take a Look Black 2013: The Work of Ava DuVernay

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Take a Look Black 2013: The work of Ava DuVernay
Posted by Wilson Morales

December 20, 2013

What do the likes of Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Julie Dash, Alfre Woodard, Venus Williams, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Adepero Oduye have in common?

In 2013, all of these lovely ladies had the pleasure of being directed by the hottest female director in town, Ms. Ava DuVernay. While the Compton native didn’t release a feature film in 2013, she managed to rack up an impressive line of work and achieved some accolades along the way.

From film to TV, from Sundance to the Academy, the former-publicist-turned-director kept herself busy while also releasing two feature films through her independent label, AFFRM.

With her 2012 film Middle of Nowhere still making its tour around the world, DuVernay concentrated on smaller projects, beginning with the short film, The Door, which was a collaboration with Miu Miu on its Women’s Tales film series.

An exploration of the female journey, friendship and perseverence, The Door is the fifth in the series that interprets the way women view the world and fashion with a political slant. The cast included Gabrielle Union, Alfre Woodard, Goapele, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Adepero Oduye. The film, a little over nine minutes in length, focuses on an actual door on the modernist house of a main character (Union) who just went through a break-up. Friends come through that door to console her, and with their support, she eventually overcomes her sadness and is able to move on.

The Door short film

As the founder of AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, two films were released in 2013 (Better Mus Come and Big Words). Directed by Storm Saulter, ‘Better Mus Come’ follows warring political factions in 1970s Jamaica as they enlist the support of gangs to enforce their policies, and advance their political agenda. In ‘Big Words,Dorian Missick and Gbenga Akinnagbe star in this film, directed by Neil Drumming, as former members of a once-promising hip-hop group, who, now in their late 30’s, struggle with regret, disappointment, and change on Election Night 2008.

In June, DuVernay was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), both as a writer and a director. She was one of three invitees to receive that honor. She’s already a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

On the television scene, DuVernay directed the documentary ‘Venus Vs.’ for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. It centered on how tennis star Venus Williams challenged the long-held practice of women tennis players being paid less than their male counterparts at Wimbledon.

Back in July, Deadline reported Pathe UK, Brad Pitt’s Plan B and producer Christian Colson had chosen DuVernay to helm the MLK film Selma, with her ‘Middle of Nowhere’ star David Oyelowo still on board as the fallen Civil Rights Leader. She replaces Lee Daniels, who made several attempts to get it off the ground but ended up directing another history film, ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler.’ Time will tell if Daniels’ initial cast of Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, Ray Winstone, Robert De Niro, and Cedric the Entertainer will still be involved with a new director attached.

During the summer, she directed another short called ‘Say Yes,’ which featured Lance Gross and Kali Hawk in leading roles, with cameo appearances from “Awkward Black Girl” star and creator, Issa Rae, musical recording artist, N’dambi, actress Lorraine Toussaint, and filmmaker and author Julie Dash.

The film explores the power of the affirmative, and the beauty that blossoms from embracing life. It was inspired by the Fashion Fair lip color, Say Yes.

In September , she was added as a member to the Sundance Institute’s Board of Trustees, which is responsible for the governance of the Sundance Institute and all its offerings, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance filmmakers Labs and Sundance grant-giving.

Within that same month, DuVernay directed “INTERLUDES LIVE! with John Legend,” a one-of-a-kind performance by the 9-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter at the Red Rooster Restaurant paired with a series of interviews shot on the streets of Harlem. It was shown on TV One as well on HelloBeautiful.com, the world’s #1 digital platform for African American women and women of color.

Though her independent lablel, AFFRM, DuVernay launched a podcast series dedicated to black filmmakers called ‘The Call-In.’ where she interviewed black filmmakers from across the diaspora in casual, candid conversations focused on the craft. This year’s pool of talent included Mother of George’s Andrew Dosunmu, Newlyweed’s Shaka King, Things Fall Apart’s Charles Murray, God Loves Uganda’s Roger Ross Williams, and The Best Man Holiday’s Malcolm D. Lee.

It doesn’t get any better when the hottest TV producer (Shonda Rhimes) calls you up to direct an episode of her captivating and twitter hog series ‘Scandal.’ Duvernay directed the eighth episode of season 3 titled ”Vermont is for Lovers Too,” which featured Kerry Washington, along with Khandi Alexander and Joe Morton, who play Olivia Pope’s parents.

To finish the year, in late December, DuVernay and her team at AFFRM hosted a 9 hour Rebel-a-thon on Twitter where filmmakers like Julie Dash, Ryan Coogler, Victoria Mahoney, Justin Simien, Pete Chatmon and many more took over AFFRM’s Twitter account for 9 hours to discuss and celebrate black cinema.

In short, DuVernay had one hell of a year and we haven’t seen her best work yet.


  1. This is a very accurate article which includes all Ava’s amazing 2013 work! LOVE IT!

  2. So Proud of all the African American Beauty that This Awesome Super Woman is Showcasing for the world to see . I am so proud of her Success and the Example she is setting for other women in her field and beyond with her persistent dedication to her Craft . Thank You!!!

  3. Well go Ava!! I’ve seen all that she’s done this year. I’m now putting those two films she released in my Netflix queue. I’m so happy to see the diversity of her projects. Ava is showing people who are in or want to be in Hollywood that you can and should create artistic opportunities on your own. To think this is only the beginning for her.

  4. Miriam Holder-Jacobs says:

    Seasons Greetings and continued blessings in abundances to all the wonderful actresses with accomplishments now and later that believe in their dream and stuck with it. Not until 1961 when I arrived in the USA I found out their are black people like me in America and then later on saw them on TV. We’ve come a long long way and I am so proud of all races. God loves us no matter what we look like. If you have true love in your heart and Faith in God your dreams will come true! Just trust him and hold on, “it’s coming, just hold on”. The words of my wise 99year old senior, Ms. Rosie, “just hold on, he ain’t finished with you yet! Cheers always, Miriam H-Jacobs