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A Conversation with Filmmaker Ava Duvernay
The BlackStar Film Festival took place August 2-5, 2012 in Philadelphia. Its mission was to celebrate the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and to showcase film and video works by and about black people from across the globe.
Other obligations did prevent me from attending all but one event, but it was a good one - A Conversation with Ava DuVernay.
Ava DuVernay, is the first African American woman to take home the U.S. directing award at Sundance Film Festival (2012) for her film "Middle of Nowhere". (Opening in Philly October 12th).
The discussion was lead by documentary filmmaker Louis Massiah and was funded by The Leeway Foundation.
I became aware of Ava DuVernay, last February when she came to Philly as the featured speaker for a Reelblack Lunch Lecture entitled: DIY filmmaking, marketing and distribution (click for T & T post).
Later in the year, I saw her debut feature film - I Will Follow and was very impressed with the telling of this personal story of grief and family ties.
Most importantly, Ms. DuVernay founded AFFRM - African-American Film Releasing Movement, a groundbreaking distribution company comprised of 6 Black Film Festivals across the country, dedicated to diverse cinematic images, whose mission is to empower black filmmakers through a means of theatrical distribution beyond the studio system and connect their work with eager audiences.
AFFRM has been making strides, but at the end of the interview Ava beseeched the audience for more support -
" We need you to help make this happen. Whether it's Middle of Nowhere or the film that comes after. It's not gonna work if the audiences don't come. I can't tell you how heartbroken we were about the numbers for Restless City.
We don't go to investors because we don't want to answer to anyone about the kind of films we choose. We don't need to make money, we just need to breakeven and be able to sustain ourselves; we cannot do it if you don't come.
So if you're at all interested in black cinema, the forward movement of these images... come! It has to be the Friday or Saturday of the opening weekend."
To watch an excerpt of Ava's interview, here's the Youtube link.
I also participated in a roundtable discussion with Ava and her lead actress Emayatzy Corinealdi on September 25, 2012 in Philadelphia. There was much laughter and sisterly bonding as these dynamic women answered our questions on guilty pleasure foods, sexy leading men, Ava's distaste for screenwriting, despite her obvious talent, Emayatzy transition from small parts in shorts to leading actress in a Sundance winning film and more... Youtube link
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