Presented by the Leeway Foundation
Writer, director, producer, and entertainment industry pioneer Ava DuVernay will talk about her work and strategies for creating a voice for African American filmmakers in the mainstream Hollywood industry. She will screen an exclusive 20-minute excerpt from her current film, the critically acclaimed Middle of Nowhere, for which she became the first African American to be awarded the prize for Best Directing at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Ava has quickly become a champion for independent filmmakers, specifically for women and people of color. In 2010, she launched the African-American Film Releasing Movement (AFFRM), a groundbreaking distribution company 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.
Ava DuVernay made her feature directorial debut with the critically acclaimed 2008 hip-hop documentary, This is The Life. Winner of Audience Awards in Toronto, Los Angeles and Seattle, the film was released theatrically and debuted on Showtime in April 2009. The Los Angeles Times raved, This Is the Life vaults into the upper echelons of must-see hip-hop documentaries.” In 2010, she wrote, produced and directed the feature, I Will Follow, starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Omari Hardwick, and Beverly Todd. Released theatrically in 2011, the family drama was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as “one of the best films I’ve seen about the loss of a loved one.”
DuVernay directed and produced three network music documentaries in 2010. My Mic Sounds Nice, a definitive history of female hip hop artists, which was BET Networks’ first original music documentary; Essence Music Festival 2010, a two-hour concert film, and Faith Through The Storm, about women who have reclaimed their lives after personal devastation during Hurricane Katrina, both for TV One. Most recently, DuVernay completed principal photography on her second narrative feature, Middle of Nowhere, which will be released in October 2012.
Previously, DuVernay worked in the world of film as a marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, forming DVA Media + Marketing in 1999. Her award-winning firm provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Bill Condon, Raoul Peck and Gurinder Chadha. A UCLA graduate, DuVernay is the founder of AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She is based in Los Angeles.