Ava DuVernay is quickly shaping up to be one of the most infleuntial voices in Hollywood. The publicist-turned-writer-turned-director’s civil rights drama Selma is already generating Oscar buzz, and we couldn’t be more proud of her.
Here are five need-to-know facts about the trailblazer, and 2014 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood honoree, who is a force to be reckoned with:
1. Not only was she the first Black woman to win Best Director at 2012’s Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, but just last month, she made history as the first Black female director to ever be nominated for a Golden Globe for Selma. Yess!
2. She began her Hollywood career as a film studio publicist and marketer. She was inspired to start directing her own films while working on 2004’s Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. “I was on the set like, Michael Mann is cool and everything, but why is he telling stories here?” she told ESSENCE. “I should be telling stories here, because I have stories from these streets.” She soon began writing her 2012 drama, Middle of Nowhere.
3. In 2008, she spent over $48,000 of her savings to direct the film I Will Follow, a semi autobiographical look at overcoming her aunt’s death. The late Roger Ebert called I Will Follow “one of the best films I’ve seen about the loss of a loved one.”
4. She founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) in 2011 with the sole mission of helping distribute Black independent films. To date AFFRM has released indie films like 25 To Life, Vanishing Pearls and DuVernay’s first feature film, I Will Follow.
5. In 2014, she received the Visionary Award at ESSENCE’s annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. “[These stories] deserve to be told,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Not as sociology, not as spectacle, not as a singular event that happens every so often, but regularly and purposefully as truth and as art on an ongoing basis, as do the stories of all the women you love.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Selma opens nationwide tomorrow, January 9.