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Ava DuVernay Talks Breaking Color Barrier at the Venice Film Festival

By Marlow Stern
September 06, 2023
By darcostudio
September 06, 2023
Franco Origlia / Getty Images

Filmmaker behind Selma and The 13th became the first African American woman with a film in competition in Venice for her new drama Origin

While much of the talk surrounding this year’s Venice Film Festival has been about three men who stand accused of heinous offenses, the 80th edition of the fest also made history: Ava DuVernay, whose film Origin is premiering at the fest, became the first African American woman to have a film performing in competition on the Lido.

Origin is an adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, which explores how caste systems in different societies across the world have fostered racism. DuVernay’s film features Oscar-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis as Wilkerson, and combines the book’s themes with biographical details from Wilkerson’s life. Neon acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Origin just prior to its Venice debut. Origin also stars Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, and Victoria Pedretti.

During the film’s Venice press conference, DuVernay described the film as “half-adaptation, half-dramatization of [Wilkerson’s] life,” and was “a step-by-step process that she participated in.” DuVernay said she spoke with Wilkerson for about a year and that “all the stories that we see in the film, she told me.”

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