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13th Critics' Choice Awards

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

13th Critics' Choice Awards
DateJanuary 7, 2008
Hosted byD. L. Hughley
Best FilmNo Country for Old Men

The 13th Critics' Choice Awards were presented on January 7, 2008, honoring the finest achievements of 2007 filmmaking. The ceremony was hosted by D. L. Hughley.

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  • 2015 Susan & Michael J. Angelides Lecture: A Conversation with Filmmaker Ava DuVernay
  • 2017 Hayek Lecture | Manhattan Institute


Alison Bernstein: So now it’s time to ask you to join me and welcoming both Brittney Cooper and our 2015 Angelides lecturer, Ava DuVernay, please welcome. (Audience clapping) Ava DuVernay: Thank you. Brittney Cooper: Good afternoon, everybody. Can you all hear me? So this is my pleasure. Anyone who knows me know I stand for Ava DuVernay. So we’re just going to talk, we’re going to talk and you’re going to talk. Is that cool? Alright. So first, you took a really unconventional pathway into filmmaking. Not formally trained as a filmmaker but a journalist and then a publicist, and so I guess the thing that I want to know about that is what inspired you to want to become a filmmaker? (audience laughing) Ava DuVernay: I’m setting this up so I can see you but also see Brittney. Brittney Cooper: Okay. (laughing) That’s alright. So was this a thing where you were like, what inspired you to want to become a filmmaker and one of the things I’m thinking about, Toni Morrison famously said if the books we want to read don’t exist then we must write them, so was it? Audience member: Louder. Brittney Cooper: So was it that there were films you wanted to see that you didn’t see being made or that you had a particular story that you wanted to tell. What inspired you to really take this particular path? Ava DuVernay: Well, you’re so beautiful. Your skin is perfect, you’re fantastic. (audience clapping) Your hair, the eyes, Brittney Cooper: I knew I was going to be on stage with you. Ava DuVernay: The eyebrows are on fleek. It’s all working. (audience clapping and laughing) Right now, everytime I walk into a room I’m always shocked that people are here, so I just thank you all for coming. It’s really cool. No, it really wasn’t that. I mean, I feel the Morrison quote is so you know, it definitely resonates but that wasn’t what was propelling me early on, it was really a desire to tell stories and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t see stories that I wanted to, stories that resonated with me, because I certainly did. I love all kinds of films so I’ll watch, you know, a film from the Ukraine and be riveted, so it wasn’t that I was seeing or responding to an absence, it was just I mean, I had my own stories to tell and so, and I had been working so much in an industry where I was helping other filmmakers have their stories amplified and told, that was my job, that lot of times to be honest I’d be around some of these filmmakers, some of my white male counterparts and I would think, wow, uh, you’re the director? Brittney Cooper: (laughing) Ava DuVernay: This must not be that hard. Brittney Cooper: Word. Ava DuVernay: And you know, there’s some people where you just kind of you know- getting to know them demystified the process for me, because I didn’t go to film school and I don’t have a formal training in film and I taught myself and it was from being on sets with directors, some really great directors and some not so great directors and what I learned are the things that I want to do and really the things that I don’t want to do and so that was an education as well and so really it was just responding to stories that I had to tell but also that feeling very confident in the fact that this wasn’t brain surgery, this wasn’t you know, rocket science, that it was possible for me to do because I had seen other people doing it and had proximity to filmmakers and so. Brittney Cooper: I love that, and what I love most is you are so confident. You’re confident as hell and you know, and so we work in women’s and gender studies here and we’re always trying to help young women garner confidence and so I’m just wondering how do you, are there particular places that you attribute that kind of confidence, that fundamental belief that the stories you have to tell are important and that you could figure out how to do that and do it so masterfully. Ava DuVernay: Well I appreciate it. I mean, I don’t think I ever thought that the films, stories I wanted to tell were important. I just wanted to tell them. You know, I mean I didn’t have any elevated sense of what the stories were or what they could do. I just knew there was something in me that I wanted to express, the fact that people are responding to it is really the cherry on top, something that I never really factored into that process. And I think, you know when I talk about, part of the, some of the confidence that comes from filmmaking is that I was around it in another way as a publicist, as kind of you know, a tangential, like a crew member, you know, someone who people don’t treat incredibly well in the industry. Nobody wants to see the publicist coming, you know, the publicist, this is not the warm and fuzzy person on the crew and so just immersing myself in film in a way that wasn’t the center, you know a lot of times the directors, the center, the actor is the center, but being someone on kind of the margins of it I think gave me a different perspective. And just allows me to operate in a bit of a different way because I don’t have any fear of not being the center, you know what I mean? Like I could easily go back to doing what I did or do something else. My whole livelihood and worth isn’t based on being a director so , and it isn’t based on making a certain kind of film so when I go into a studio meeting or I’m dealing with an executive or an agent, I don’t feel like everything’s hanging in the balance on that job, you know what I mean? So I think that might be what people see as confidence but really I think it’s just experience Brittney Cooper: Wow. One of the things that I was surprised to find is that you, so your first documentary, you have many films and you have these documentary films, so we started paying attention to you, the Crunk Feminist Collective with My Mic Sounds Nice, which we love and so Rachel Ramos, which is our filmmaker at the CFC wrote this piece about it but before that you have ‘this is the life’ which I recently watched and- Ava DuVernay: You did?! Brittney Cooper: I did watch it, Netflix is great. Ava DuVernay: Where did you find it? Oh, Netflix? Brittney Cooper: Yes, I found it on Netflix and I learned that you used to be an MC and you were nice on the mic. Ava DuVernay: I was nice on the mic. Brittney Cooper: She was nice. Ava DuVernay: I was actually really nice on the mix. (laughing) Brittney Cooper: So I wonder, does that hip hop ethos or aesthetic influence your work now? Your grind? Is it a part of you in a particular way now? Ava DuVernay: I think so. Anyone who grew up in, I mean, you know, at that time it was the golden age of hip hop, the 90s, everyone was fantastic, I mean, it was just, it was the time, I’m sorry. It really was and, but it was a time in so many ways beyond hip hop culture, you look at, it was the golden age of television. It was the golden age of modern rock and roll. There was so much going on in film that it was just a great time for art making and the way that it was affecting culture and so that was certainly a great time to just be experimenting as an artist, as a young person. It was the first time that I was interacting with art as an art maker. I grew up in Compton, not a lot of, I mean now I can look back and say oh my mother’s work in her kitchen was art, oh the way my grandmother crochets is art, but in that moment, kind of monetised art and public art was anything that I was really exposed to beyond films at my local movie theater and so to be 19, in South Central, you know, at this health food store called the Good Life, like being an artist and around likeminded young people at that time, like that’s all still in me and I think that’s why I’m so into kind of the idea of together, we are strong and collaborative in community and folks coming together because the first time that I was making art it was sin a collective and so you know whether it’s a firm or whether it’s any of the other organizations that I’m down with and I’m really passionate about, I just never learned about art from an individual place, you know. It was always about the sharing of it and the back and forth of it, and so I think that definitely influences me now. Brittney Cooper: Love that. And so- Ava DuVernay: That’s what the director is. Brittney Cooper: Right. Ava DuVernay: I mean, I can’t make a movie by myself. Brittney Cooper: Right. Ava Duvernay: Right, so? Brittney Cooper: Well that’s the thing I was thinking (laughing) is that in your movie, so one of the things that , so everybody who found out that I was going to be talking to you said, we really have one key question. How does she make us look so gorgeous in these movies? That’s the thing, right? Yes, no really. It’s like you’re, it’s a healing kind of thing. You watch your films when, we snuck out of a major conference, we snuck out of the National Women’s Study Association conference to go see (laughing), I Will Follow when it debuted in Atlanta in 2011 and we just sat riveted by the way that we were lit and there was a real appreciation, and you know so I heard you talk about this a little bit but can you tell us a little bit about how we think about making us show up on screen so beautifully. Ava DuVernay: Yeah, I think it’s just the intention to do so, most, I mean, too many people don’t intend to make us look good on screen. We’re just there and we’re tangential to the main action because we’re the supporting characters, going to die in a couple of minutes, so- (audience laughing) You know, and so let’s just get this and let’s keep going. I think, you know, it’s really, just about some key principles of cinematography. When you have two people in a scene that you’re lighting, you know, you light for the star. They’re in the same place so they have to have the same lighting so you light for the central character who 90% of the time is the white character so that white person’s light is not as attractive on our skin and so we look a very technical cinematic term called ashy (audience laughing)- Brittney Cooper: Word. Ava DuVernay: If you understand what I mean, and so you know what I mean? We’re following in, it’s just harsh, it’s just not quite right and so in our film since black people are centered, you know, we take care to make sure that there’s light that is conducive to their skin and then also just playing with a lot of things like I always talk about this idea in Middle of Nowhere there’s scenes when the main character walks into home, a darkly lit room at night, you know, it’s not even darkly lit. I walk into my house at night and the lights aren’t on. What does that look like? So that’s something that my cinematographer and I, Bradford Young, the genius, always talk about the reality of what we look like in dark spaces. In Selma there’s a scene, if you’ve seen it, where David Oyelowo, Colma Domingo, who are Dr. King and Anne Roth Abernathy are sitting in a dark jail cell and you know, there’s no beauty light coming in. Those brothers are dark and it’s a dark jail cell and you need to know what it felt like to be in a dank, deep cell, jail cell, you know, put in there by Sheriff Jim Clark, in 1965, what did that feel like? It doesn’t feel like pretty light coming through the window, it feels harsh, it feels dank, it feels dire and so how do you construct that so that you actually are giving some emotion from the narrative and the image. And so those are all considerations like I said it’s intent and it has to be something that you’re striving for when you set foot on your set and you know, I don’t blame even black filmmakers for not taking the time with it or not massaging those images because so often just getting to the set is just, the act of survival, like it’s just that we’re here, let’s go let’s get it, that it does take some exercise to say, okay, we are here, let’s breathe and let’s really think about you know, the image, and that’s in a long legacy of filmmakers, like Haile Gerima, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash who have done that, so we just try to continue that legacy. Brittney Cooper: Thank you, you’ve said a lot there and so a couple of things, one is that so you sort of shifted from the lighting to the kind of things you want us to feel, which I think is pretty cool and so when I watch the films, what’s clear to me is that you actually believe that black folks have interior lives, right? So people are thinking, they’re feeling things, and so you don’t overcompensate for that with lots of words sometimes, you’ll do more with silence than many other people do with words. Is that intentional, that attempt to, that putting black interiority on the screen. Ava DuVernay: Yes, absolutely. It’s just black people thinking, just is all, we try to do. (audience laughing) You know, it’s silly and funny to think that that’s a radical idea and that we don’t see enough of it, you know. But I think in film in general we don’t see a lot of interior work, you know, across the board, American film. American film, it’s just like, you’ve got to keep it moving because the belief is that we don’t all have the attention span to sit and you know, travel through the emotions of someone that we’re watching on screen. They have to be acting, not emoting, so I think it’s you know, just a different approach to it, but certainly for black folk it’s radical only in the fact that there’s just not enough of it happening, it’s rare. Brittney Cooper: That’s right. So you also mentioned Julie Dash, so I was thinking about like one of the reasons we’ve been so excited you know it was like a telephone reaction like, there’s a new black women film director on the block because there are just so few and so as you said recently, you’re carving your own path but do you find that Julie Dash, or Kasi Lemmons, even folks like Dee Rees who did Pariah or inspiration or that you are in conversation with them. How do you see yourself in relationship to other black women film directors? Ava DuVernay: Yeah, and that quote, taken out of context sounds a little weird. I mean it was in answer to a question about the Oscar hooplah and the awards stuff and the Golden Globes stuff and all of that. Where there’s no one I can say, oh, what did she wear? You know, like just the basics, like how am I supposed to, what do I wear? What did she wear to that, or how did she handle that, or whatever? Just because in that realm of the whole circus, there was no one who had done it before and so literally I didn’t even know who to call to figure out, does the studio pay for the clothes, do I have to pay for my own gown, like I have no money for this. How does this work? Who do I call? There was no one, you know, there was no other sister to call in that capacity, but from, creatively of course many, many women, I walk in their footsteps, I stand on their shoulders of you know, of Euzhan Palcy and Kasi Lemmons and Julie Dash and Neema Barnette and Oyoka Tenzera and Cheryl Dunye and I mean, many, many, and so yeah, creative footsteps and professional footsteps, that’s where I’m finding the veering off point. Women who have made a film of a certain size, you know, in a studio environment, you know, a certain type of film that has a certain trajectory and I’m finding that there weren’t a lot of women of color, period, to talk to in that space, and so that’s where I felt like, you know, who do I call here? But I just cobbled together my own dream team of people , Oprah Winfrey. Brittney Cooper: Yes, oh. Ava DuVernay: She was able to tell me somethings Brittney Cooper: Yes. Ava DuVernay: Drop some knowledge on the hourly. Brittney Cooper: She’s a dream team all by herself. Ava DuVernay: Dream team all by herself, Debbie Allen, as a director, you know, just the actual directorial work beyond what the work does. I think that’s where it became a little like where am I for me over the last couple of months because it’s not the work itself, many people to speak with, many people to lean on, rely on, get advice from, ask questions. It was just the glitz side of it that was different. I mean, it wasn’t even black women filmmakers, like women filmmakers, like I would have to ask Kathryn Bigelow questions and she was like, yeah, that one time I did, you know what I mean? She was fantastic but it’s really, you can count on one hand, I don’t know Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, like there’s three or four that have been in that space and so that’s where I hope , you know, I look forward to the next sister to come up because I’m going to be like yo, I got, I got some things to tell you. Brittney Cooper: That’s right. Ava DuVernay: We share. Brittney Cooper: That’s right, yeah, yeah. So I want to talk about, so things have changed a lot in the last year, last few months, but I want to talk about Selma a little bit, but specifically before we talk about Selma, so I found all of your films to be really political, not because they are like rah-rah black power films but because you’re dealing with things that are politically important like the prison industrial complex in Middle of Nowhere and how it shows up in intimate space, and so do you see yourself as a very political filmmaker, this is always a question with artists. Black artists don’t seem to have the freedom to not be political and so how do you navigate that because it seems particularly on the heels of Selma to come with a lot of pressure to get it right, tell our stories right, represent us right, how do you stay true to the thing you want to do in those spaces with all that pressure to be political? Ava DuVernay: That’s a great question. I don’t feel pressured to be political, I mean I had said- I was on this women in the world summit just the other night and I, it was a question similar and I never had it before and I had said something that I do believe, sometime you say something and think what… (audience laughing) but I believe this one. No, but I think, you know women making film is a radical act in and of itself so you know, I can make a romantic comedy or I can make Selma, just the fact that I’m making film, I feel the same way about black filmmakers I mean we, our absence is so loud that when we do make something, you know, I mean there’s two independent films that come out today. There’s a film called brotherly love and there’s a black independent film, a film called Black Bird and these are films, you know, small films that you know are not supported by a traditional studio system that these filmmakers, two black men filmmakers made at a high cost to them and they’re very different and it’s kind of like watching them and trying to help them survive and just live and breathe and that’s the world that we live in as filmmakers. You work on something for two years, you give it everything and then you’ve got to struggle to, it’s on life support the minute that it hits and so I think you know, just the, like I said, the very act of what, and their films are not political in the traditional terms, but they are because they exist, you know? And so I think for me I don’t feel any pressure, I feel like I can go do Scandal or I can do Selma. Brittney Cooper: It’s Scandal. Ava DuVernay: I feel like I can do, you know a fashion film for Prada and I can do a documentary on Venus and I can do this TV show for CBS or like, don’t do TV after Selma, why? It’s a story I like it I’m just going to do it. So I’m just trying to stay out of those boxes and you know, follow my heart in terms of the stories that appeal to me. Brittney Cooper: I was going to ask you if you think moving from the Indie film maker thing because you know it’s always this authenticity, right, it’s like underground hip hop, you know- Ava DuVernay: And I got a record deal. Brittney Cooper: Right. (laughs) People are looking at me all side-eyed, that’s right? That’s why I like, you’re going mainstream was going to be real as it ever was, right, so how do you- how do you stay true to your you know, I mean do you feel the pressure to do that or is it like, look, I got resources now I can really do this- Ava DuVernay: I really don’t have resources, I mean I really don’t. Brittney Cooper: Well what if we get resources? Ava DuVernay: I know, really that’s the thing. I really don’t have resources, I mean the smoke and mirrors about whatever people think they see, I mean it’s not true wealth, true resources in the way that people would think it is to the point where you know we can finance and distribute and sustain a movement of film, a cinematic movement, so yeah, I mean yeah am I scraping up two dollars to make a picture? No, maybe I’m scraping up a little bit more but I’m still scraping and so I think it’s a you know, it’s important because I think a lot of times, especially with the whole Hollywood of it all, that you start to, because it’s very seductive to just start to separate yourself from where you were and to fool yourself into the fact that, fool yourself with the feeling of it being easier when it, you just, it’s really the same, you just got better clothes, you know what I mean? It’s really the same, you just might be invited to that party that you weren’t before but truly you know, filmmakers, Tim Story, who directed huge blockbuster super hero films for Fox, Fantastic Four I think, those films, is it Fantastic Four? I think one of those, anybody know? Some blockbuster film he directed really, really amazing, the first black filmmaker to be playing with that much money and have that much studio resources and I did an interview with him for our podcast at a firm run, my black film distribution company and he was talking about the fact that you know, when it was all said and done, he was looking around and once Fox didn’t give him another film, then what’s next? And so he has to pivot and now do these think like a man films which are very popular and I like them, but they’re much different and so he found himself a man without a film and so it’s really in the filmmaking world, if you’re not independent and autonomous and self generating, you’re at the whim of the industry based on what they want to give you and what they don’t want to give you, truly. And so in that sense I want to always remain independent because I cannot be waiting on someone to say, you deserve this, or we think you can do this, or now’s your turn to do this. Hell no. Brittney Cooper: Right, hell no. (laughing) (audience clapping) So I want to talk about Selma, which just thank you for Selma, it’s a masterful film. (audience clapping) So one of the things that was just shocking, you know, so there’s this opening moment where there are four little girls going down, there are five little girls and it’s the story of the four little girls going downstairs being bombed in Birmingham and they’re talking about hair, (laughs), they’re talking about hair and for me that, what struck me as I watched it for the first time was, there are very few instances of little black girls talking to each other on screen. Why did you start a film about Selma in Birmingham in ‘64 when Selma’s 65? Ava DuVernay: Alright. Well, Selma, ‘65 in Selma. I started in ‘64 in Birmingham, why, right? Well I was told when I came in that at this point I was supposed to cue, am I? I was supposed to cue the trailer. Brittney Cooper: Okay, let’s see the trailer. Ava DuVernay: I probably could have done that more elegantly. (audience laughing) I probably should have said Brittney, let me show you an image but I didn’t so. (music playing)(man from trailer speaking) (silence through trailer, ending at 50:17) (audience clapping) Ava DuVernay: I haven’t seen that trailer in a long time, so yeah, I mean an answer to the question when I got the, it’s interesting because this is one of the first talks I’ve had about Selma since all of that, well now all of the awards stuff and on that campaign, there are certain things you can say and certain things you can’t say but now it’s over so I can say what I want to. Brittney Cooper: Say it. Just do it. Ava DuVernay: But no, I mean during that time, when I got the script, you know, there were no women. When I got the script, there were issues and things that I didn’t feel I didn’t want to say as a filmmaker, so I rewrote it and one of the first order of business was trying to figure out how to you know, put people in the place of the true state sanctioned and sponsored and executed terrorism of the deep south of the ‘60s, and so I had felt a real distance from Civil Rights from that film set, I felt that I had seen the past because I felt like they didn’t really deal with the violence, it was a violent era, it was a violent era and so in all of the research when you talk to any of the freedom fighters who are still living, you read their work, we know that the four little girls, the Birmingham church bombing was just a seminal event in the movement. It radicalized some, it distanced some of the leaders from each other, it was just a point of no return for them and so I felt like that, you know, even though we were stepping outside of Selma and outside the year and the three months we were focused on, it was imperative that we use that moment to be true to what it was for them, but then also to really let the audience know, you know, we’re not making what you think, you walked into, or what you think this would be. This is going to be approached in a different way as filmmakers and so in doing that I had to really think about how we wanted to treat the four little girls and you know, and so I actually called my mother, who was born in 1954 and I asked her, because she was around the same age, what did little girls talk about, black little girls talk about in 1954? And she was like, that’s a stupid question. (audience laughing) She was like, no, she never, she was like well that’s silly they talk about whatever little girls talk about now and I was like I don’t know, some 11 year olds be talking about some stuff and I’m like, what did you all actually talk about? And so you know I asked her how they regarded Mrs. King at that time and she talked about them, she was their Beyonce, you know what I mean. She was just the most beautiful thing. Her and Diana Ross, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and so she was just talking to me about you know, she was just emoting about trying to take herself back to what they thought and all she kept focusing on was her hair. How she just had the best hair and I was like well of course we all talked ad nauseum for centuries and decades, talk about our hair so that would be what the conversation was and then I just became very emotional as you think about these five little girls walking down talking about that and you know very purposefully, letting the bomb go off in mid sentence, I mean that really is you know, demonstrated the way that their lives are snuffed out, you know, in midstream and so you know, in making film, every single frame and the way that I make it, every single frame, every single line is constructed to elicit emotion from you, to bring you and try into the narrative in a way that’s on a heart level and so those first scenes, that first scene was definitely all purposeful, each and every head turn, each and every, what they were wearing, how the clothes fly through the air, all of that was very purposeful. Brittney Cooper: That’s right. Ava DuVernay: Thank you. Brittney Cooper: So I loved it, I got that there was this intentionality around making sure that when we told this story that we also talked about the women who made it possible, both the women who sacrificed their lives through these acts of violence but also cooked, who strategized and yet when Selma debuted you got some pushback from the community around wanting more from characters like Dianne Nash. We won’t talk about the folks who wanted LBJ to be the star, because they don’t matter, (audience laughing)- Ava DuVernay: They really don’t, but a lot of our people wanted even more, not, you know I was defensive for you because I was like, well she has given us so much, but I wonder what your thoughts are. Ava DuVernay: Well I want to thank you for writing for me on facebook. I saw some things I was like dang, glad I got Brittney in my corner because she was throwing both like whoa. Brittney Cooper: Don’t come for my people. Ava DuVernay: But I think you know, what I couldn’t say at that time, which is what I can say now is there were no women. There was, that script was nothing like what you see. There’s someone’s name on that script, which is a painful thing, but you know, that script was in no way close. It was a page one rewrite, so it was about trying to work within a studio paradigm with a gentleman’s script, older gentleman’s script from England, trying to bring some black magnificence and excellence and intention and nuance into that within a space that is not built for us, like I work in industry, you know, that regards Birth of a Nation as a seminal work. It is a constant struggle to insert us there and so it does hurt to hear that what you did is not enough. I had felt like I could say if only you knew what it was and what was done and like you can’t say that at the time, so I hear it, I mean, if it was my $20 million it would have been much different but ultimately it was my final vision of what I could do within the context of what I had to work with and I’m proud of it and I was able to get a lot in but I mean, you know, Richie Jean Jackson is a real woman, the whose kitchen they enter. Diane Nash, she should have her own movie, I mean that’s just a fact. Amelia Boynton, Annie Lee Cooper, you know, Coretta Scott King, every single scene you see them in, everytime they’re on screen it was a struggle to get them there and so I am proud that they’re there. Is it enough? Of course not. Is it the best I could do? Yes, and I just hoped that folks, you know, it’s easy to criticize, that’s why now that I kind of got to a certain place, I stopped being as critical of folk because you really don’t know the full story and the fights, the struggle to get it to where it was, so thank you for recognizing that and so I just felt like you know, might have been safer just to not have them there at all as opposed to opening yourself up to criticism for it not being enough, you know, maybe I should have doubled down on Coretta and made her fuller and then left the other four women out, but my thought is let me get as many sisters in there as I can, even if there’s just bits and so those are just judgement calls that I made but yeah, you know, the criticism- I tried to stay away from it a little bit but I heard it and I mean people, the criticisms of not enough SNCC, well damn, I mean, SNCC, no one, SNCC wasn’t on the page, like there was no SNCC. SNCC wasn’t included, you know. I mean no one was thinking nothing about SNCC, no one thinking nothing about Malcolm. None of that stuff was in there and so you’re working in two hours and you’re trying to you know, bring in as much of what you know should be there as possible. You’re dragging it in and you’re fighting the whole way, you know, that’s what it ultimately was so. Brittney Cooper: Now, so there are also these overt gestures. So when those officers pull those gas masks over their face, I mean this happens you know, this film comes out just a couple of months after Ferguson, so was that intentional, did that moment influence your filmmaking, were you trying to make a gesture to this political moment and if so what was that gesture? Ava DuVernay: No we shot it all already. Brittney Cooper: Oh wow. Ava DuVernay: Michael Brown was murdered while we were in the editing room. Brittney Cooper: So we had already shot everything, so that the eerie similarities are just proof of the continuum that we’re on, the fact that these gestures, the fact that (audience clapping)- that you know, that you know I was watching Ferguson on cable news and you know the you know the cops there were saying some of the very same things, very same language, the very same, not even demeanor. Outside agitators and like, you know, just the same stuff, it’s like wow is there a handbook of bad cop handbook that’s been passed down from generation to generation, apparently so because it’s just these ghosts of the past really were inserting themselves into our reality today and so yeah, it’s none of that was purposeful, I mean we had already shot and edited bloody Sunday when Ferguson went down, so yeah, just it was all, just this energy that was coming back into the piece. Brittney Cooper: So we’re rushing to a close here, so many more things to say, but I want to ask you before we open for questions for folks to talk back- so what’s next? What exciting things do you have next? I heard about a TV show that you’re working with on OWN and a new pilot, so one, what things are next, but also do you have like a dream project that you just really want to do that we should be looking out for? Ava DuVernay: What’s next is I’m really interested in exploring television. You have a lot of really beautiful filmmakers that are moving to television, auteurs who are, you know, David Fincher and Steve McQueen and Jill Soloway and Steve Soderbergh and you know a lot of people go into TV, Cary Fukunaga, because you get to tell the long story, instead of two hours you get 13 hours, 13 episodes, so that’s attractive for a story teller, so venturing into that, just also never want to be in a place where someone can tell me no, so to diversify and to be able to do TV and film and virtual reality and stageplays and whatever I want to do that I can always kind of be able to duck and move and always tell stories, so TV is my current exploration, I kind of got hooked with Scandal, I really liked it- Brittney Cooper: Yes. Ava DuVernay: So- (audience clapping) Yeah, I did a pilot, we’ll see if CBS picks it up, don’t know if they will, but I’ve got a straight to series order on OWN, it’s nice when your friend owns a network, it just comes in handy. And so she says hey come over here and make something, so we’re going to make something very not normal TV over there. Brittney Cooper: Okay. Ava DuVernay: So that will be fun, and beyond that I’ve got a film that I’m working on with David Oyelowo, who played Dr. King so beautifully, a dear friend of mine, we’re making a film, it’s a love story and a murder mystery that happens during the time of Katrina and so that’s the next film and yeah, lots of other films. I’m getting, you know, offers for interesting things. Lots of period pieces. Brittney Cooper: Do you think you’ll do historical film again? Ava DuVernay: I won’t say no. (Brittney laughing) Not in a while, not for a while, not for a while. But anyways, Dream Project is something in the far future. A far future project like Octavia Butler or, you know, something (audience clapping) where we can imagine ahead is of interest. Brittney Cooper: You know what, before we open up for questions you know I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you this one question like, so all of your politics are sort of really implicit but since we’re in a women’s and gender studies space, do you, how do you think about feminist politics in your work? I mean you, you know, I don’t ever anticipate seeing a character wearing an ‘I am a Feminist’ t-shirt, but that care about women is so central that I don’t know how else to call that but a feminist ethic, is that what you call it? Ava DuVernay: Absolutely, it’s top of mind every day and every thing that I do, so yes. (audience clapping) Brittney Cooper: Awesome. Alright, we’re going to take some questions. So how. Ava DuVernay: It’s a good looking audience, it’s interesting, you don’t see yourself, but the colors are all nice, lots of different age groups, smiles, interesting outfits. (laughing) Brittney Cooper: Yes, so do we have mics or, how are we going to, or do you just want me to facilitate? Okay, come on, yeah. We have two couple of questions from our virtual audience, right? Is that right? Hillary: Hi, my name is Hillary. I’m a social media intern with the institute for women’s leadership here and I wanted to ask a question that someone had tweeted in and they ask, how do you get to the level where people will support the constant movement of your films? Ava DuVernay: To the level where people will support the constant movement of it? I’m not sure I totally understand the question. What do you think? Brittney Cooper: So where, I guess where, it’s a lot of hustle to get people to pay attention so that sort of shifts. Yeah. Not having to hustle so hard. Ava DuVernay: How do I get to the level? I mean, I don’t know. From I Will Follow, is a film I made for $50,000, I was saving for a house, my mother was like, I had owned a house when I was 27 and I was like houses were $30,000 then, and she was like yes, but you should own a home and she was just on me, on me, on me, so I started saving up for a house, I got $50,000 for a down payment and then I made a film with it, whoa, and it worked out, but at the moment it wasn’t a good look with mom, but that film was so small and it was all just very grassrooted in the way that we made it and the way that we told people about it to the point that you know, I was at no level for support, yet sisters would come out of a conference to go see this small little film that was barely playing for a week in some place, so I think you know, it’s less about how to garner support and more about the work because if the work is sound and the work is true, you will find people who want to support it. If the work is hollow and you’re doing it just to do it because you want to make a film and are trying to make a film I think you know, it starts to get in a shaky place, but I was so passionate about making it and having people see it that even though it was super small I found an audience so I don’t think you have to have a certain, you have to be in a certain position to have that support. Ava DuVernay: Yes absolutely, I mean I got asked a question a lot about you know, during Selma about well you know, they were so great back then, you know, it was so great and just everyone now is just not great. It’s basically the sentiment, you know all over the junket, and all over the world, in these junkets around the world, it's like why can’t we be like them then? But people need to understand, it’s a different time with different tools and different tactics and I think that technology and social media and the cameras that we all have in our pockets, I mean if we had them then we would have been using them like we’re using them now, I mean they are in use and they are part of this current movement so yes I think, I think you know, the fact that I mean as a filmmaker, every single person right now can take a video, I mean just the thought of that, I mean, you’re talking about a people who weren’t allowed to have a pen, you know, we weren’t allowed to write words on paper, now we have camera to you know to amplify whatever’s going on, whatever injustice you see, that is powerful and we’re seeing the power of it and so you know a filmmaker wrestling with how to put these images on the big screen and seeing just a whole community, a whole nation that now can put images on any screen right at this moment, I mean that is a forwarding of where we were and certainly it should be included in the activism so I don’t know if it has anything to do with me being visible, it doesn’t, but I am talking about people using that camera in their pocket and just knowing that is also a weapon against the things that we’re fighting against. Ava DuVernay: Yeah, I was the 7th director, very flattering. (audience laughing) At that point they were just like lady do you want to give this a try because nobody else can do it. And yeah, it was David Oyelowo , he was cast previously as Dr. King by Lee Daniels who was the 6th director and when Lee Daniels went off to do The Butler, David really still wanted to do Selma and so he really pitched the producers that were on board at the time, Oprah wasn’t involved, to take a look at me. He basically got me the job. I don’t pitch and I don’t beg for jobs so they basically called me and said hey he thinks you might be able to do this, do you think you can do something with it? So I started working with it, rewrote the script, and at the time that I was starting to rewrite the script, he had also asked Oprah if she would come on board and she had seen Middle of Nowhere and so I had gotten to know her a little bit but I was still in the awkward Oprah phase, it’s phases, so the first year of knowing her, you act like a hot mess. Some people get over that sooner than others, mine was a full 12 months of just awkward black girl, just like shout out to Issa Rae, like really, really bad like I don’t even know how she wanted to continue to be around me and then and then so in the second year is when she was invited to do Selma by David and she came on board and then the third year we made Selma together and now we’re making more things together but yeah she came on after me and I came on after David and you know we’re here because of David Oyelowo, a brother who you know, advocated for a black women film maker taking over the reigns to this film and made it so, he made them hire me, so I’m grateful to him. Ava DuVernay: Yes, so some people that wanted it in and some people that didn’t, for me I thought it wasn’t, I didn’t think it was the only way that I really wanted to get involved with the project. I mean now we can look back and say oh, a movie about Dr. King and Selma, but up until that point there had never been a major motion picture with Dr. King at the center, so to kind of think about how to do that, you know, was a big, big puzzle, and that’s part of the reason why there were six directors before me, but for me and my approach was to say okay, what do I not like about civil rights dramas that I have seen before, you know, this patina of respectability that’s across all the characters, everything’s brightly lit like you’re in a supermarket and you know at the end it’s going to be okay. You know what I mean? It’s just kind of like that’s not the civil rights movement I read and studied, what is this movie? You know? And so I think, for me it was really about deconstructing King and it wasn’t about making anything up about him it was really just trying to get to the root of who he was as a man and we knew that whatever the rumored infidelities, the extracurricular activities, whatever you want to call it, is a part of the conversation about him so I felt it was disingenuous not to engage in that. The question is how. Previous filmmakers, other scripts wanted to get in the bedroom with them, ba-bow-bow-ba, you know what I mean? I was reading one script I was like, what?! I don’t want to see him do this, you know, another one wanted him to flirt with the ladies and I was just like, you know what, as a black woman I want to know what Coretta said when he came home actually. That’s what I’m trying to understand. What did you? How did that go? And so you know, so it was just about looking at it from my point of view and just in the rewrite trying to figure out what interested me about that part of it but it was all from a place of let him be a man and let’s not try and keep him a marble statue or a stamp or a holiday or all of the things that he’s become. Ava DuVernay: She’s talking about Selma for Students, first of all she says she follows me on twitter at AVAETC, on twitter- (audience laughing), or directher on Instagram, but then she said about how Selma for Students which is this amazing campaign, black business leaders started it, it wasn’t a paramount pictures thing, paramount pictures leaned into it and it was fantastic but it was really these wealthy black people in New York who had seen an early screening of Selma and decided wow, more people should see this, students should see it, young people should see it, so they, on a couple phone calls they put together now, $270,000 and they were able to have 227,000 New York 7th and 8th graders be able to see the film and it was lovely and we thought it was a big deal and put out a press release and it was fantastic, and then it kind of became contagious and similar people in Atlanta and Detroit and Houston and LA and Oakland started to do the same thing to the point that now 300,000 students have seen the film for free. All you had to do was go to your local theater with your ID and these people would pay for it and it was all generated independently by the black business community, all separate communities around the country and so that’s 300,000 people during the theatrical release had never been done, unprecedented, all independent and now paramount pictures is kind of picking up on that and really paying it forward by giving every high school in the country a DVD of Selma, so that, we just announced that at the UN yesterday, which is really cool, you know, as a filmmaker you know, we’re struggling on set to make these images and we’re doing our thing, you never think that something you make is going to be able to resonate in that way so thanks for asking the question. Ava DuVernay: I made my first film when I was 38, first feature film when I was 38 so that’s like ancient in movie terms, you know I was at Sundance, my first time at Sundance as a filmmaker with like other guys in my category like you know just young guys straight out of NYU with the jeans and the t-shirt like doing the Spielberg, you know and I’m like fully grown black women, you know, very very different and so when I jumped from one thing into another it wasn’t even jumping into something that was comfortable, it was very public, it was very different, very foreign to anything that I had that I thought I could do. I just had something I wanted to say and decided to go for it. And all I can say about that is you know, part of the reason why I was able to do it was because I did it gradually with progression. So often when you think of switching or getting into something new, we feel like it has to be all or nothing and it has to all happen right now, you know, I made a short first and then I studied a little bit more and then I dipped my toe in this and then eventually I worked up to it so that I didn’t have to be all in in the switch, so when I really interrogate how I made the switch from one total career to another, it was allowing myself to do it little by little because I even know it within myself, you just want it, you just want to do it and so how do I quit my job? How do I do this? What do I do with this? This is like, you’re overthinking it, just taking a little step, and a little step, and a little step and you’ll find that you’re there, so that would be my advice is just take it slow and stay on the course. Ava DuVernay: I don’t know, I don’t know. I’ve put out a couple of shorts online, I like the idea of free content such as having things be free online, but you have to be either a whippersnapper like Issa or you have to be willing to crowdfund which is just a little tough for me to do or you have to be independently wealthy. I’m neither of the three of those things so, but I do like the idea, like when Prada gave me some money to make something or Fashion Fair gave me money to make something, just you know making it free online and just allowing community to build around it, but yes I’m interested in telling stories in all kinds of platforms. Right now I’m super interested in television, also dabbling a little bit like I said in virtual reality, I’m really really interested in that, you know. Right now you guys are like VR, what is that? In three years, everyone’s going to have a headset, you’re going to be watching TV in your glasses, I’ve seen it, it’s amazing, right, and you’re going to be able to move and like be the character, it’s nuts. You’ll remember, you’ll say she said it, you’ll say, right now you’re like she’s tripping, but trust me, okay. And so yeah, definitely web is interesting, and you had asked me how you know we support other, I always find that question to be a little foreign, like how am I going to support people doing their thing? I’m going to support them by watching their work (laughs) and I’m going to support them by telling people about it and I’m going to support them by answering any questions I have about it, you know, Oprah gets that all the time. How are you going to support me? And she’s like I’m going to say go get ‘em? You know what I mean? Like how? I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m going to, but I support them in anyway that I can that feels right at the time. Ava DuVernay: The question is about women, black women’s roles in film and television for actresses and you know, there are rules. There are black women, writers and directors of all kinds making things independently. You’re just not, it’s just not at the local movie theater and you know it’s not on every television network but it’s out there. There are roles, I would say, for a black women actresses to link up with black women story tellers, you know what I mean? There are so many scripts out there, so many sisters who are writing, wanting to direct on the shorts level, the documentary level, on the narrative level, you know, I think it’s like that I talked about progression and gradual thing, you know, we can’t have the big movie right off, you know, if you’re truly an actor, you’re truly an artist, a cinematic artist, then you’ve got to be studying and honing your craft and doing it gradually so that eventually you do, you are able to you know, matriculate, is that the right use of the word? Up to, ask my friend who is a scholar, up to you know, the roles you dream of, but you just have to begin at where you are and so I guarantee you there is someone here who has written something. I guarantee you there is someone here who can borrow a camera and make something and it’s just beginning to work on the craft. Brittney Cooper: Thank you Ava. (audience clapping) Ava DuVernay: Thank you so much. Really great, I appreciate it very much. (audience cheering and clapping) Thank you! Thank you! Aw that’s sweet, thank you very much I appreciate it. Thank you. Abena Busia: Good afternoon. My name is Abena Busia and I’m the chair of the department of women and gender studies and though it’s a privilege to be here, I feel heartbroken that I am the person standing up to say you all got to go. (laughs) But I want to, I’d like to begin by thanking once again Ricky Angelides and her family, you know, for those of us who have devoted our lives to working in great public research institutions, it is always wonderful when people care enough to endow anything in a public institution and this lecture series is just unbelievable, so thank you very much (laughs) (audience claps), and thank you to everybody who made this possible and to all of you who are here. The Institute for Women’s Leadership and those of us, all of these organizations in the consortium, we do a lot of things, we want to see you at every public thing we do, okay? Come and find us, we are at 160 and 162 Ryders Lane on the edge of the Douglass Campus, going towards Sears, you all know where Sears is so if you can get to Sears you can find us. Thank you very much for being here and thank you especially, this has been such a privilege and you go with our blessings and to know you’ve got a clack that is going to follow you, you know, I’m old fashioned, I believe in following physically but people will be tweeting and whatever and letting everybody know you're there, and we will keep an eye out on you, thank you so much everybody. Brittney Cooper: One last thing, I just need to give a special shoutout to professor Deborah Gray White who stepped up and gave us some additional support to make this possible, thank you so much (audience cheering and clapping) thank you so much. Ava DuVernay: (cheers) I just want to say before you go, thank you to all of the scholars who allowed me to be here, thank you to your family for endowing this really special, I kind of was freaked out when they said Gloria Steinem was the last one, I was like, that’s something, yeah, I shouldn’t be the follow up but I just want to tell you how what it means to me to see you all here, you took time out of your day, you came, you sat, you participated, you smiled at me, you listened to me, you asked me questions, I don’t take that for granted at all, so when you go to watch the work of an artist, you go to watch our work, I just want to communicate how much it means, I mean most of us do not take that for granted, we know that we just (audience clapping), we don’t take it for granted at all so anyway I take this energy with me I thank you so much have a great afternoon, thanks a lot.


Winners and nominees

Coen brothers, Best Director winners
Coen brothers, Best Director winners
Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor winner
Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor winner
Julie Christie, Best Actress winner
Julie Christie, Best Actress winner
Javier Bardem, Best Supporting Actor winner
Javier Bardem, Best Supporting Actor winner
Amy Ryan, Best Supporting Actress winner
Amy Ryan, Best Supporting Actress winner
Nikki Blonsky, Best Young Actress winner
Nikki Blonsky, Best Young Actress winner
Diablo Cody, Best Writer winner
Diablo Cody, Best Writer winner

Best Actor

Daniel Day-LewisThere Will Be Blood

Best Actress

Julie ChristieAway from Her

Best Animated Feature


Best Cast


Best Comedy Film


Best Composer

Jonny GreenwoodThere Will Be Blood

Best Director

Joel Coen and Ethan CoenNo Country for Old Men

Best Documentary Feature


Best Family Film


Best Foreign Language Film

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon)USA

Best Picture

No Country for Old Men

Best Picture Made for Television

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Best Song

"Falling Slowly" (performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) – Once

Best Supporting Actor

Javier BardemNo Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress

Amy RyanGone Baby Gone

Best Writer

Diablo CodyJuno

Best Young Actor

Ahmad Khan MahmoodzadaThe Kite Runner

Best Young Actress

Nikki BlonskyHairspray

This page was last edited on 5 July 2017, at 12:12
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