Publicist-turned-filmmaker Ava DuVernay made history earlier this year when she became the first African American woman to win the Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director award for her new movie, Middle Of Nowhere, an independent film that chronicles the journey of a prison wife who, after dropping out of med school to help her husband make it through an 8-year sentence, has to figure out how to function in a perfectly imbalanced relationship. Nowhere is the latest of DuVernay’s five films, each of which swim in critical acclaim for their ability to be beautiful, fresh and relevant to the audience she serves: intelligent black folk who crave good stories about us on the big screen. Going to see Middle of Nowhere is a no-brainer for Nick and I; we’re making a date night out of Ava’s opening weekend by attending a showing here in Atlanta because, well, we think she’s pretty doggone brilliant and don’t want to miss the chance to see something special right here in our backyard. Still, we understand that not everyone is as dedicated as us to black thought on the big screen. So I thought I’d just go on ahead and put out into the universe my own Top 5 reasons you should hightail it to the theater to support Ava and her new flick:
1. Middle Of Nowhere looks like a helluva movie. Bloggers who attended the Blogalicious 2012 conference in Las Vegas just a few weeks ago were treated to scenes from the movie, with commentary and a Q&A with Ava and Nowhere’s star, the absolutely stunning Emayatzy Corinealdi. The clips we saw were lush. Poignant. Intelligent. Heart-wrenching. Juicy. And Omari Hardwick is in it. So there’s that. Watch this.
2. Ava is, as the New York Times pointed out, swimming upstream and needs our support—period. A San Diego State University study shows that the numbers of female filmmakers is at a 12-year low of 5 percent, and, when it comes to the top 250 movies at the box office last year, the numbers of black directors is even lower. We should be rushing the theaters with our $10 tickets in hand to support this sister and her work, which is made specifically to give us voice—an intelligent, thoughtful one—on the big screen.
3. The business-savvy Ava is a master at scraping together her own cash to finance her work, making her beholden to nothing but her own aesthetic and storytelling. As chronicled in the New York Times, Ava makes quick work of explaining how she’s made an “end-run” around studios to find private equity to finance her indie films—films that know their audience, respect our intelligence and revere a very specific point of view in their stories. “It’s not about knocking on closed doors,” Ava recently told a predominantly African-American crowd at the BlackStar Film Festival. “It’s about building our own house and having our own door.” #Church!
4. Ava has a track record of making some pretty awesome film fare. Her first feature film, I Will Follow, a film about a woman dealing with the death of the aunt who raised her, earned strong reviews, and her hip hop documentary, This Is the Life, was hailed by LA Weekly as a movie that “vaults into the upper echelons of must-see hip-hop documentaries.” Her other music documentary, My Mic Sounds Nice, also received raves for being a well-told but rarely-seen, definitive history of female hip hop artists, and she scored one more for the ladies by training her lens on the women of Katrina in her film, Faith Through the Storm. Basically, Ava makes films for us, by us, about frequently unexplored aspects of our lives. Good films. Ones worth seeing.
5. Ava’s film has a social justice component to it. Even as Middle of Nowhere gives a fictitious accounting of the struggles of a prison wife, the main character’s story is one that is quite real for all-too-many black wives, girlfriends and mothers. Ava chose to use her film to call attention to predatory companies that provide phone services to prisons—charging upwards of $18 for 15-minute phone calls, and making it near impossible for families to keep in touch with their loved ones on the inside. Studies show that prisoners who fall out of touch with their families are most likely to commit more crimes and head back to prison after they serve their first sentences. Sign Ava’s petition to get federal oversight of predatory interstate prison phone call rates so that more mothers and wives can at least hear their family’s voices on the phone and know they’re okay.
Middle of Nowhere is showing on a limited number of screens in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, Detroit, Oakland, Houston and New Jersey. Click here for Middle of Nowhere locations and showtimes. Let’s show Ava DuVernay—and ourselves!—some love by supporting a filmmaker and movie that supports and respects us.