Ava DuVernay can add yet another accolade to her long list of accomplishments.
On Saturday, June 4, the director, screenwriter was honored at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which kicked off earlier this week in Culver City, California. For more than 20 years, the festival, known for fostering diversity in the film industry, has highlighted independent films as well as the production companies who birthed them – such as DuVernay’s film distribution company ARRAY.
According to THR, DuVernay and her fellow ARRAY partners (executive director Tilane Jones and marketing director Mercedes Cooper) were presented with the Spirit of Independence award. “All of us should be able to see ourselves,” said DuVernay, before emphasizing the importance of Black directors, including Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) and Rick Famuyiwa (The Flash). “You’re starting to get into a space where we get to see something we have not seen, which are black filmmakers with a hearty amount of resources,” she continued during a Saturday LAFF panel.
Adding that, unfortunately, “we make these projects within a system that is not built to support various voices. It’s not built to support them, to nourish them, to amplify them. When something does break through, it has to start all over again.”
In 2010, DuVernay established ARRAY whose works are “dedicated to the amplification to the independent films by people of color and women filmmakers worldwide,” per her website. With plans to expand from two to six releases per year, Cooper revealed they’ll be able to reach a broader audience, as many films aren’t readily available in undeserved communities — providing the example that there was no theater in Selma to view the Civil Rights film and no theater in Compton for Straight Outta Compton.
“It’s not just the fact that a film can do well,” said Cooper, citing Compton’s negative coverage in the press. “It’s the fact that there’s community around it, conversation around it, that a film can push a national moment forward, can be a piece of art. All the things that surround films of color seem to be a surprise. It really is just a selective amnesia because it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.”
Meanwhile, DuVernay stressed the need for all filmmakers of color whether Latina, Native American or Asian. “Everyone here loves film, yet a whole swath of film, a whole group of filmmakers have been kept from them,” she said. “That pisses me off and I don’t accept it. I want to educate myself. I want to learn. I want see those films and I want to help those films be seen. ARRAY is really about people hearing about what we do and reaching out to us and saying ‘tell me.’”
She added, “The urgency of black film is something at the forefront. People that love film need to seek it out. They need to seek out these things. If they say it’s important to you, you need to seek it out.”