Venice Film Festival Q&A with director Ava DuVernay

The Venice Film Festival holds a significant place in the world of cinema, showcasing some of the most remarkable films from across the globe. It’s a platform where filmmakers, actors, and artists come together to celebrate the art of storytelling through film. In this Q&A session, we delve into the thoughts and experiences of the acclaimed director Ava DuVernay as she prepares to premiere her latest work, Origin, at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.

Ava DuVernay: A Journey into the Heart of Discrimination

Ava DuVernay, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, known for her thought-provoking and socially relevant works, is no stranger to tackling complex and profound subjects. In her upcoming film, Origin, she takes inspiration from Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 bestseller, Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, to delve into the deep roots of discrimination and the dire consequences of subjugation.

As DuVernay aptly puts it, “That is the part where you look up and you say, ‘how could people have allowed their neighbors to be taken and put in the camps?'” She draws a powerful parallel between historical atrocities and the way we engage with current issues through social media. In a world where information flows freely, she challenges us to pause, reflect, and question our understanding of the world around us.

Tracing the Threads of History in Origin

Origin meticulously traces the journey of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson across various continents, exploring themes of grief, revelation, and the consequences of historical stratification. From the ancient caste system in India to the horrors of the Holocaust, the film draws unsettling connections to contemporary political realities on both domestic and international fronts.

One cannot help but feel a sense of urgency in the film’s narrative. It acts as a poignant reminder that history is not confined to textbooks; it continues to shape our present and future. Neon, the global distributor for the film, recognized its significance and acquired worldwide rights for Origin, paving the way for its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

A Trailblazer in Venice

Ava DuVernay’s presence at the Venice Film Festival is historic. She is the first African American woman to be in Competition at this prestigious event. Breaking barriers has become a hallmark of her career, and Origin is no exception.

Following its Venice debut, the film is set for a Gala screening at the Toronto Film Festival, where DuVernay will be in attendance. This journey marks a full-circle moment for her, as she reflects on her desire to showcase her work on the world stage.

The Neon Partnership

One cannot help but wonder what led Ava DuVernay to choose Neon as the distributor for Origin. She explains that her admiration for Tom Quinn and the way he approaches filmmaking played a significant role in her decision. She sees Neon as a partner that shares her passion for storytelling, making it a natural fit for her vision.

A Bold Move Amid Strikes

The ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have cast a shadow over the film industry, impacting the premiere of Origin. Due to the strikes, DuVernay will be presenting the film without some of its star cast members, including Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Niecy Nash-Betts, and Jon Bernthal.

While it may seem like an unconventional choice, DuVernay explains that the intricacies of the strike agreements make it challenging to negotiate the presence of the cast. It’s a reminder of the complex dynamics at play in the industry, and she expresses her wish for a resolution that satisfies the artists’ needs.

The Power of Storytelling

Origin is a film that dives deep into the annals of history, touching upon some of the darkest chapters of human civilization. It’s a narrative that transcends borders and speaks to the universal values of justice and morality.

Ava DuVernay emphasizes that her goal is not to seek agreement but to foster engagement. She wants the audience to grapple with the issues presented in the film and spark meaningful conversations. In a world where information often washes over us, she urges us to stop and contemplate the gravity of the present moment.

A Global Conversation

DuVernay’s work has always transcended boundaries. Her previous projects, such as Selma, 13th, and When They See Us, have initiated crucial discussions on a national level. With Origin, she aims to expand this conversation globally.

Justice and the quest for what’s right are concepts that resonate universally. They are not confined to a particular region or culture. DuVernay’s hope is that Origin will serve as a catalyst for a global dialogue, one that brings together people from diverse backgrounds to contemplate the complexities of our shared history.

The Journey Back to Indie Filmmaking

The path to Origin has been a unique one. Originally conceived as a Netflix project, DuVernay made the bold decision to take it back and secure independent financing. This move allowed her to return to her indie filmmaking roots, free from the constraints of a major studio.

Ava DuVernay reflects on her career trajectory, acknowledging that she had experienced success within the studio system. However, the allure of self-determination in her filmmaking journey was undeniable. She wanted to tell her stories on her terms, and that desire led her to take a leap into the unknown.

Lessons from Television

Prior to Origin, DuVernay spent five years immersed in television, working on a variety of projects. This period of exploration and experimentation honed her skills as a director. Television’s fast-paced nature allowed her to play with different tools, work closely with actors, and address production challenges.

This newfound expertise served her well during the making of Origin. She felt confident in her abilities to tackle the challenges that came her way, thanks to the skills she had developed while working in television.

A New Beginning

As Ava DuVernay embarks on the journey with Origin, she is acutely aware of the shift in her filmmaking approach. It’s a return to her indie filmmaking roots, but with a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from her ventures in television.

This new phase in her career is marked by a sense of liberation and a desire to offer something unexpected to the world. She sees it as an opportunity to contribute to the art of storytelling and engage with audiences on a deeper level.

In conclusion, Ava DuVernay’s Origin is a powerful exploration of history’s impact on the present and a call to action for viewers to engage with the world around them. As she steps onto the global stage of the Venice Film Festival, she continues to challenge norms, break barriers, and inspire meaningful conversations through her art. Her journey reflects the essence of the Venice Film Festival itself—a celebration of cinematic excellence and a platform for voices that demand to be heard.

Venice Film Festival is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, showcasing exceptional films from around the globe. It serves as a platform for filmmakers to present their work and engage in discussions about the art of filmmaking. The first Venice Film Festival was held in 1932, making it one of the oldest film festivals globally.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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