By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood June 26, 2012 at 12:33PM
I had the privilege last week of attending the LA Film Festival gala of Middle of Nowhere written and directed by Ava Duvernay. If you recall, Ava is the first African American woman to win the best director award at the Sundance Film Festival which premiered the film this past January. Unlike most film festival events I've been to, this audience was predominantly an audience of color and it was beautiful to be a part of especially when Elvis Mitchell who ran the post screening q and a said "hello black people and all the rest of you."
I am beyond impressed with Ava and her passion to create a market for African and African American films. She knows there is an audience interested because she has already released two films through the company she created AFFRM (African Film Festival Releasing Movement.) She partners with African American film festivals and gets them to bring their audiences to the theatre for AFFRM's releases.
She is about to take it to the next level partnering with Participant Media to release her second film Middle of Nowhere on October 12. The key to the success of building this market is to have a film that is good enough to not only get African American audiences but also to cross over and bring in other audiences. This is something I totally support since as women we are used to seeing films by and about men. It's our norm. And the norm for African American audiences is to see films about white people because that is the majority of films released. Ava wants to expand the norm and I am totally on board.
It really shouldn't be so hard for white audiences to see a film about an African American woman. But it seems that this is not typical. So we need to push and encourage people to see different films because we all need to see different people's lives and experiences. That's what I love about the movies. The ability to see something about someone who is not like you and to feel connected to it because it moves you. Jeez, if we can get people running to see a bunch of old British people struggling with old age in India we surely have to be able to get people to see a movie about an African American woman struggling to get her life on the right track.
It would be harder if the film didn't stand on its own, but Middle of Nowhere speaks for itself. It is a beautiful film. It is not enough for Ava to just have African American audiences see her film. She wants it to be bigger and it should be. She is challenging the culture and moviegoing habits and she has many members of the African American film community behind her work. That screening was full of African American Hollywood royalty. Angela Bassett introduced it. CCH Pounder was there. Lorraine Toussaint is in the film. They understand that this film can make a difference. They understand that this is an opportunity for other audiences to embrace black stories.
Ava spoke at the screening and talked about how there is a precedent for white people not to see this film. It's time to break this precedent. This movie is a huge opportunity for those of us who look to support diverse visions and stories to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Mark down October 12. There will be more information as it gets closer.