Ava DuVernay Becomes First African American Woman to Have Film Compete at Venice Film Festival


September 11, 2023

Ava DuVernay is walking into another career first as the buzz continues to grow around her new film “Origin.”

DuVernay is now the first Black woman to have a film compete at the Venice Film Festival in its 80-year history, reports NBC News

“Origin” stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Jon Bernthal. The film follows the story of writer Isabel Wilkerson and her Pulitzer Prize-winning work as an author and journalist.


The biopic specifically explores Wilkerson’s creative and personal journey as she writes her book Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents.

“Origin” received an eight-minute standing ovation following its debut screening at the Venice Film Festival, reports Deadline.

During the press conference for the festival, DuVernay spoke about Black filmmakers being discouraged from entering their projects into film festivals.


“For Black filmmakers, we’re told that people who love films in other parts of the world don’t care about our stories and don’t care about our films. This is something that we are often told: you cannot play international film festivals, no one will come,” DuVernay said. “People will not come to the press conferences, people won’t come to the P&I screenings. They will not be interested in selling tickets. You might not even get into this festival, don’t apply. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, ‘Don’t apply to Venice, you won’t get in. It won’t happen.’ And this year, something happened that hadn’t happened in eight decades before: an African American woman in competition. So now that’s a door open that I trust and hope the festival will keep open.”

DuVernay also opened up about why she felt it was key to keep the film an independent production — after it first started in the studio system.

“I don’t feel like we would have had the cast that we had if it had remained in the studio system,” DuVernay said. “The studio system is a place where I worked and made projects that I’m proud of, but there is really an aspect of control over who plays what. And there is an idea about who makes money, attracts attention and sometimes that sits at odds with who might be the best person for the part. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor was the best person for this part.”


The independent film production and distribution company Neon acquired the worldwide rights to the film on September 5.

DuVernay also recently announced that her ARRAY Crew database for film crew workers would be partnering with the Impact professional network — creating the largest hiring network in the entertainment industry. 

Photo by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

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W.Maye Armstrong
W.Maye Armstrong
8 months ago

Congratulations Ava. You are an awesome film producer. Have enjoyed your movies.

8 months ago

Congratulations Soror Ava! I cannot wait to see this movie. I read the book…powerful!!

Robin McGowan
8 months ago

Congratulations beautiful talented Queen 🌺🙂


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