Today marks the birthday of both my brother and a woman who has greatly inspired the hashtag slogan #ChangetheNarrative, Ava Marie Duvernay. Former publicist turned A-list writer, director and producer, Queen DuVernay has created Academy Award nominated films like Selma. My favorite works are I Will Follow, her debut film, Middle of Nowhere and of course, Queen Sugar under her Forward Movement company. (Yes, I borrowed that for the title.)
DuVernay has changed the narrative with her film distribution company ArrayNow, which celebrates people of color and women like no other organization has done in the past. Her relationship with Netflix kicked open a door and several windows of opportunity for women and people of color, seemingly encouraging Scandal and Grey's Anatomy creator and showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, to join the fray as well.
Let us not forget the groundbreaking documentary, 13th, which highlights the injustices within the Prison Industrial Complex in the US. Highly acclaimed, 13th is a must-see for anyone living or visiting the United States of America, in my opinion, especially if you have children of color. It also bravely points out the companies invested in incarceration with interviews with esteemed scholars in the field.
Keeping along the same thread, she is now producing Central Park 5, presenting the story of the five young men of color accused of raping a white woman in 1989. Those of us who were alive at the time can remember the buzz surrounding the case, particularly the part where Donald J. Trump shelled out about $85,000 to place full-page ads in New York City papers indirectly condemning these young boys while practically demanding the return of the death penalty. Although each had their sentence vacated due to DNA evidence 14 years later, your President has never apologized for his actions. Of course you know not to hold your breath on that one.
Moving on, Ava DuVernay embodies the courage, the determination and the vision of change I support in the film and TV industry. I would love to continue to see more work that speaks truth and compassionately celebrates people from diverse experiences. ArrayNow is specifically designed to help filmmakers get their completed work out who have done just that already. Lailia Productions is primarily designed to help beginners shape and build their work so they can get to the distribution stage.
We can all figure out a way to work together to #ChangetheNarrative. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has transformed their policies because of people like us. Keep up the good work. As Ava DuVernay says, "Onward!" Until next time, take care of you and tell your story or someone else will.