Ava Duvernay becomes the first African-American woman in competition at Venice Film Festival

Origin, a film made in 37 days, is inspired by the life and work of Pulitzer-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson who has authored Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
Director Ava DuVernay poses for photographers upon arrival for the premiere of the film 'Origin' during the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. (Photo | AP)
Director Ava DuVernay poses for photographers upon arrival for the premiere of the film 'Origin' during the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. (Photo | AP)

On Wednesday, Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman director to present a movie in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

Her latest film, Origin, made waves at the festival during its world premiere, earning her a nine-minute standing ovation.

During the eight-decade-long history of the famous festival, it was the first time that a film by an African-American woman director was included in their official competition.

At a press conference on Wednesday, DuVernay mentioned how Black US filmmakers are led to believe by the industry that they can't be a part of international film festivals and it is not a place for them. 

"I can't tell you how many times I have been told: 'Don't apply for Venice, you won't get in'. And this year it happened. Thank you. Something happened that hadn't happened in eight decades before, an African American woman in competition," she said, as quoted in media reports.

Origin, a film made in 37 days, is inspired by the life and work of Pulitzer-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson who has authored Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

The film jumps between personal tragedies in Wilkerson's own life to recreations of Nazi Germany, and the Jim Crow laws of racial segregation in the southern United States, among other historical indignities, as reported by Reuters

DuVernauy's film throws light on how people belonging to the lowered Dalit "untouchable" caste in India were dehumanized and pushed down to the bottom of society throughout history. "Wilkerson cast a light on (something) that our reader desperately needs to know or else we will be shooting at ourselves without even knowing why," Suraj Yengde told Reuters. He is an award-winning Dalit scholar from Oxford who plays himself in the movie.

DuVernay was also the first African-American woman to direct a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (Selma). 

She made her directorial debut with I Will Follow in 2010. She has also won several awards at the Prime Time Emmys, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes.

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