"This is something that we are often told — you cannot play international film festivals, no one will come," Ava DuVernay told reporters at a Venice Film Festival press conference
As DuVernay, 51, appeared in Italy on Wednesday for the world premiere of her new movie Origin, the filmmaker became the first female Black American director to have a film featured in the festival's main competition.
At a press conference for the movie, DuVernay told reporters that in her experience, Black filmmakers in the United States are "told that people who love films in other parts of the world don’t care about our stories and don’t care about our films."
“This is something that we are often told — you cannot play international film festivals, no one will come, people will not come to your press conference, people will not come to the [press and industry] screenings, they will not be interested in selling tickets, you may not even get into this festival, so don’t apply," DuVernay said, after she was asked about how she and producer Paul Garnes brought Origin to fruition.
"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told not to apply to Venice, you won’t get in," she added. "It won’t happen. And this year, it happened.”
DuVernay, whose previously films include 2014's Selma and the 2016 documentary 13th, said during the conference that Origin's arrival at the festival has created "a door opened that I trust and hope the festival will keep open."
"It acknowledges an absence for 80 years that as intelligent people we should be able to say, ’this happened, and now what’s next,' " she said.
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When DuVernay was first asked about producing Origin, she initially thanked the panel's moderator for asking a question about filmmaking and not about being a Black female director at the festival.
"So often as a Black woman filmmaker, the questions that I’m asked are about race, or about being a woman, or everything but the filmmaker part," she told reporters. "And so when I see interviews with my counterparts who are not Black and are not women, they have lots of questions about craft and about producing."
DuVernay's new movie "chronicles the remarkable life and work of Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates the genesis of injustice and uncovers a hidden truth that affects us all," according to an official synopsis for the film on the festival's website.
The movie stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Wilkerson, as well as an ensemble cast that includes Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald and Nick Offerman, among others. It is inspired by Wilkerson's life and work, including the author's 2020 book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. DuVernay told reporters Wednesday that she "had to read the book three times to really understand it for myself."
Distribution company Neon purchased Origin on Tuesday and plans to release the movie in the U.S. later this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie will also screen at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival.
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