Ava Duvernay: ‘Studios not lining up to make films about black protagonists’

“If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”

Selma director delivers keynote speech at SXSW and talks about struggles as an independent filmmaker, furor over Selma and how awards aren’t everything

ava duvernay

Ava DuVernay, director of the film Selma, is one of a number of celebrities lending their voice to MTV’s campaign to start a conversation about race. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Ava Duvernay, the director of the Martin Luther King Jr biopic Selma, delivered a wide-ranging, funny and at times emotional keynote speech at SXSW on Saturday.

Asked in a Q&A session following the speech why it had taken so long for Hollywood to tell King’s story, she said: “The studios aren’t lining up to make films about black protagonists. Black people being autonomous and independent.”

In her speech, Duvernay reflected on her career, her struggle to get films screened at Sundance and her motivations for making Selma. She began by focusing on how her approach to her three narrative features – I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere and Selma – have differed.

“All I was thinking about on that film [Middle of Nowhere] was Sundance,” she said. “I’d been rejected from every lab. Five times rejected from the labs. Three of my films had been rejected: my first short, my first documentary and my first narrative, I Will Follow. I look back, although I hate to admit it, but getting into Sundance came into my mind as I started to make that film.

“My error was my intention in the first place and where I put my attention, because I wasn’t making great strides as a human being,” she said. “On I Will Follow, I was proving my worth by distribution and box office and that’s what I wanted. On Middle of Nowhere I was proving my worth by festivals and accolades, and while I achieved them I never felt clearer and I never felt happier.”

The director went on to talk about how her goals were initially rooted in recognition and awards, but how as her career progressed she had found new motivation.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/mar/14/ava-duvernay-selma-director-sxsw-festival?utm_content=buffer72701&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebookbfi&utm_campaign=buffer

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