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Could Middle of Nowhere Be a Game Changer?

Features
by Melissa Silverstein
June 26, 2012 12:33 PM
9 Comments
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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.

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9 Comments

  • Jenny Bugarin | July 2, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    Good post. I am interested in hearing more about new women directors of color. Thank you.

  • mike | June 27, 2012 6:39 AMReply

    I have also see this. I like it.
    DVD Neuheiten

  • Catherine1969 | June 26, 2012 10:26 PMReply

    "it really shouldn't be so hard for white audiences to see a film about an African American woman" - may be it is because i was raised around all colors and creeds of people but to think that this talented film-maker's vision will be stunted audience-wise because her story stars a black cast is dreadful.yes it is time to break this precedent, melissa! count me in!

  • Gina | June 26, 2012 6:41 PMReply

    Yay Ava!

  • Elisabeth Young | June 26, 2012 5:27 PMReply

    I want to see this. Thanks for bring it to my attention.

  • Karren | June 26, 2012 3:31 PMReply

    I was fortunate to see this film at Sundance and was delighted when it won best director. I recall thinking to myself: that movie had a purpose. It was purposeful filmmaking. I found the material and the approach extremely moving. The performances were subtle and powerful, the cinematography choices were spot-on, the dialogue was pitch perfect, the story itself was heartbreaking yet made my heart soar at times too. Th director was extremely articulate and impressive. I am quite glad to learn that it will see a release in movie theaters.

  • Kae | June 26, 2012 3:17 PMReply

    Thank you for your article Ms. Silverstein.

    I think Ms. DuVernay's journey has been amazing. I love what she has dared to create in an answer to the absence of obscene ignoring on the part of studios / production companies of relevant stories for people of color. I have been a fan and fellow filmmaker of Ms. DuVernay since day one. I attended the LA Film Fest screening too and thought the film did what other black films want to do, but can't seem to master; restrained directing, nuance dialogue, subtext, 3-demesional black characters and well-written relationships between black men and women. And the Bradford Young's cinematography was gorgeous. I support AFFRM and hope to have my films distributed through it one day.
    You can check for my list of Filmmaking resources on my Facebook page:
    https://www.facebook.com/FundMyFilm

  • Linn | June 26, 2012 1:24 PMReply

    I know for me, a woman who is half Chinese American and half Norwegian American, I am drawn to a story. For example, I saw the trailer for "Precious" and it took my breath away. I knew in an instant I wanted to see that film. And I kept an eye out for the release date and dragged my boyfriend to the theater to see it. (to his credit, my bf loves that director and wanted to see this film too - and he's a cauasian boy from Ohio) I think the more funding that can be found to help diverse directors/writers get their stories shot - and the faster they can make the required mistakes of making movies that don't work until they get the hang of it and make films that DO work - the better off we all are as an audience. A good film will be watched. Word of mouth these days will see to it. And audiences will benefit from this diversity, I truly believe it. But it certainly doesn't hurt when the audience votes with its pocket book and buys lots of tickets to watch movies which celebrate our uniqueness as opposed to the standard quo...

  • jane t. | June 26, 2012 3:00 PM

    Good films will not be watched necessarily. There are many films by women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT that have not been seen because movies about people other than white men made by white men don't get the same exposure in media and therefore don't generate the same societal interest.

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