A gifted, socially conscious writer, director and producer, Ava DuVernay went from in-demand publicist to helming her own projects when she saw a gap in the marketplace for non-stereotypical African-American independent films. After experiencing success with the award-winning documentaries "This is the Life" (2008) and "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop" (BET, 2010), DuVernay turned her focus to narratives features with the acclaimed tale of moving on from grief, "I Will Follow" (2011), the first release from her industry-changing collective, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM). DuVernay impressed critics even further with her follow-up, "Middle of Nowhere" (2012), the story of a woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who makes enormous personal sacrifices to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick) but eventually reaches a personal crossroads. Her film dramatizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965 civil rights march, "Selma" (2014), was even more acclaimed. Earning massive acclaim across the board, DuVernay made history as the first African-American winner of Best Director from the Sundance Film Festival. Blessed with a huge talent to match her social conscience, Ava DuVernay excited critics and fans who were proud to join her in championing challenging African-American independent films of depth and substance. DuVernay also broke ground on television with a collaboration with longtime friend and mentor Oprah Winfrey, "Queen Sugar" (OWN 2016- ) and was tapped to direct the film version of the classic children's fantasy "A Wrinkle In Time," making her the first African-American woman to helm a feature with a budget over one hundred million dollars.
Born Aug. 24, 1972 in Long Beach, CA, Ava Marie DuVernay started her career as a publicist, founding The DuVernay Agency, a.k.a. DVA Media + Marketing, and providing services for a variety of television and film projects, including "Girlfriends" (UPN, 2000-06; The CW, 2006-08), "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), "Dreamgirls" (2006) and "Cop Out" (2010). Through the course of her work, she noted the lack of funding and support for African-American independent films, and set her sights on helping to remedy the problem. She made her writing and directing debut with the short "Saturday Night Life" (2006) before writing, directing and producing the alternative hip-hop documentary "This is the Life" (2008). Jubilant and charming, the film made quite the critical splash, winning awards from the Hollywood Black Film Festival, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival and the Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival, as well as a Black Reel Award nomination.
Buoyed by her success and committed to helping tell important stories, DuVernay produced and directed the Black Reel-nominated "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop" (BET, 2010) but made her narrative debut by writing, directing and producing "I Will Follow" (2011), a tale of a young African-American woman coming to terms with her aunt's death and her attempts to rebuild and restart her own life in the shadow of such loss. The powerful indie, shot and released on a shoestring budget, impressed many critics, and earned two Black Reel Award nominations as well as mainstream media attention when many outlets, including the New York Times, covered the fact that the film marked the first release of DuVernay's African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), an attempt to help change the overwhelmingly white face of up-and-coming independent film.
She achieved an amazing breakthrough with her next writing-directing-producing effort, the downbeat but dazzling drama "Middle of Nowhere" (2012), the tale of a young nurse (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who gives up much of her own life and goals to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick). Inspired by the strength and heartbreak of neighborhood women in similar situations, DuVernay's film delved into the complicated feelings, lingering sacrifices and divided loyalties in both inmates as well as loved ones left outside. It also offered viewers a rare non-stereotypical onscreen portrait of fully realized, complex African-American characters. Nominated for a Gotham Award and a Humanitas Prize, "Middle of Nowhere" also earned a Grand Jury Prize nomination from the Sundance Film Festival. DuVernay herself made history when she became the first African-American to win the Directing Award from Sundance. DuVernay's next film, "Selma" (2014), dramatized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggles during the era-defining civil rights march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Powered by David Oyelowo's magnetic performance as King, "Selma" earned both critical acclaim and box office success on a greater level than DuVernay's earlier films. DuVernay's next major project was the television series "Queen Sugar" (OWN 2016- ), executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. In 2016, she was announced as the director of the film adaptation of children's fantasy best-seller "A Wrinkle In Time."
By Jonathan Riggs
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Publicity (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Made her feature directorial debut with the documentary "This is the Life"
Directed her first narrative feature film, the drama "I Will Follow"
Directed "Middle of Nowhere"
Directed the acclaimed biodrama "Selma," about Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery
Directed the documentary "13th," providing a probing look at racial inequality in the United States prison system
Directed an updated adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time"