Ava DuVernay Discusses Movie Prospects, Womanhood, and More With Questlove
Last month, Questlove premiered the live Conversations on Creativity series at the Brooklyn art school, Pratt Institute, in which he and guest artists explore the issues and influences that make them tick.
Monday night (Apr. 24), Ava DuVernay joined Quest on the heels of quite the year, creatively. In the past twelve months, she debuted her hit show Queen Sugar and films at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, earned an Academy Award nomination for her chilling documentary on mass incarceration 13th, and wrapped filming of a Disney adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. With Wrinkle, Ava DuVernay has made history as the first black woman director to oversee a film with a budget of over $100 million.
Now, Twitter has charged her with overseeing a film starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o, inspired by a photo of the pair together at Paris fashion week show in 2014. DuVernay indicated that she was down via the social network and reiterated that excitement at the Pratt Institute event.
So, can we expect to see mega stars Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o on the silver screen together, scamming unsuspecting rich men any time soon?
“We’ll see,” said critically acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay at the second installment of the Pratt Institute’s Conversations on Creativity with Questlove, revealing that she, Rihanna, Nyong’o, and Insecure’s Issa Rae have been texting about the fan-fictioned film.
Whether or not the film really happens, DuVernay explained, “The main thing is the idea that the people want black women images that are powerful, that are complex and layered, that have nuance.” The audience broke out in roaring applause before she could finish her sentence.
And, DuVernay yelled over the applause, the people want black women to develop those images themselves.
Moderator and author Ben Greenman pushed Questlove and DuVernay to recall the first artistic images that impacted them. Unsurprisingly, Questlove cited Soul Train, the 1970s TV show that he’s known to hold a deep reverence for. DuVernay cited the nimble hands of her grandmother knitting sweaters and crocheting blankets, recognizing that such matriarchal talents aren’t often recognized as art.
“I used to say that I’m the first artist in my family, but that’s not true,” she said.
While Quest and DuVernay shared similar experiences in leading large creative communities and navigating deep-pocketed corporations that seek to capitalize on their art, DuVernay centered her identity as a woman of color in the arts in much of the conversation. It’s what makes her certain to exert an undoubtable level of authority over her projects to make sure her vision doesn’t get lost. It’s what moved her to invest hundreds of thousands of her own dollars into the independent films of her early career. It’s what lead her to found her own film distribution collective in 2010, ARRAY, when she realized Hollywood was in no rush to circulate her movies about black women making music and mourning.
Another key difference between the two icons? Quest is currently craving boredom, saying that constant creative stimulation is creating a numbness in him. DuVernay, however, became distraught when asked what she would do if she was forced to stop working for a month.
“I’d probably be fighting somebody,” said the director.
Right now, post-production of A Wrinkle in Time is keeping her busy. Though the film isn’t slated to premiere until April 6, 2018, DuVernay fans have the second season of Queen Sugar to look forward to, with a two night debut on OWN on June 20 and 21.
Questlove signaled that The Roots are working on an album as well, something he hopes will reflect social anxieties, much like DuVernay’s works. In the meantime, Questlove-lovers can look out for upcoming Conversations on Creativityhere.
Mankaprr Conteh is North Carolina based writer whose work has appeared on Elle.com and DJ Booth. Watch her (and us!) do the absolute most on Twitter: @Mankaprr.