Ava DuVernay

Real Name : Ava Marie DuVernay

Born: 24/08/1972 (51 yo)
Birth place: Los Angeles, California (USA)

Citizenship : USA

Occupation : Various , - director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor
Active Years: 1999 to present


Ava Marie DuVernay is an American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma, DuVernay is the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she is also the first black female director to have a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.


DuVernay was born in Long Beach, California, to mother Darlene Maye, an educator. DuVernay is the oldest of the five children. DuVernay grew up in Lynwood, California and Compton, California. DuVernay's father, Murray Maye, a businessman, is from Hayneville, Alabama, a small town between Montgomery and Selma. DuVernay spent summers in Hayneville. DuVernay said that these summers in Alabama influenced the making of Selma, as her father saw the Selma to Montgomery marches as a small child.

DuVernay attended Saint Joseph High School, where she graduated in 1990. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1995, where she double-majored in English and African American studies.



While in college DuVernay became interested in broadcast journalism. While an intern for CBS News, she was assigned to help cover the O.J. Simpson murder trial. She became disillusioned with journalism, and decided to switch to publicity.


Public relations

After graduation, she worked as a publicist. DuVernay worked at FOX, Savoy Pictures and other public relations firms for four years before forming her own agency, The DuVernay Agency, later known as DVA Media + Marketing, in 1999. The award-winning marketing and publicity firm has provided strategy and execution for more than 100 film and television projects by directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Bill Condon, Raoul Peck and Gurinder Chadha.



In 2008, DuVernay made her feature directorial debut with the documentary This Is the Life, a history of LA's Good Life Cafe's arts movement. DuVernay began with documentaries because they can be done on a smaller budget than a feature film, and she could learn the trade while doing so.

In 2011, DuVernay's first narrative feature film, I Will Follow, a drama starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, was released theatrically. DuVernay's aunt Denise Sexton was the inspiration for the film. DuVernay made the film in 15 days with her own money: DuVernay "kept costs under $50,000 by staying in one location." Roger Ebert called it "one of the best films I've seen about coming to terms with the death of a loved one." I Will Follow was an official selection of AFI Fest, Pan-African Film Festival, Urbanworld and Chicago International Film Festival.

In the summer of 2011, DuVernay began production on her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere. The film was acquired by AFFRM and Participant Media at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it played in U.S. Dramatic Competition and garnered the Best Director Award for DuVernay, the first African-American woman to ever win the prize. DuVernay also won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award for her work on the film.

ESPN commissioned DuVernay to produce and direct Venus Vs., a documentary on Venus Williams' fight for equal prize money for their film series Nine for IX, which aired July 2, 2013.



DuVernay directed and co-wrote Selma, a $20 million budget film produced by Plan B Entertainment, about Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon Johnson, and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. The movie was released on December 25, 2014.

There was significant controversy about Selma and its depiction of Lyndon Johnson's actions as portrayed in the film. Former Johnson domestic policy aide Joseph A. Califano, Jr. criticized DuVernay for ignoring and falsifying history, and particularly for suggesting that Johnson reluctantly supported King's efforts and that he set the FBI to investigate King. For the film she re-wrote most of the original screenwriter Paul Webb's script with an increased emphasis on King and the people of Selma as central figures. In response to the criticisms of historians and media sources that accused her of irresponsibly rewriting history to portray her own agenda, DuVernay pointed out that the film is "not a documentary. I'm not a historian. I'm a storyteller".

The film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Song, but not Best Director, by the Academy Awards. While the lack of diversity of the Oscar nominations for 2014 was the subject of much press, especially on Twitter, the film of the only person of color that was nominated for the 87th Academy Awards, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, ended up taking top honors in four categories at the February 2015 87th Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The award for Best Original Song went to "Glory" from Selma. DuVernay stated that she had not expected to be nominated so the omission didn't really bother her; rather she was hurt by actor David Oyelowo not being nominated. As to the question of racial diversity of awards, she stated that the obstacles to people of color being represented in the Academy Awards were systemic.



DuVernay directed episode 3.08 of Scandal which was called "Vermont is For Lovers, Too".


Future projects

In 2013, she announced development on a narrative feature film entitled Part of the Sky set in Compton.

In 2015, it was announced that DuVernay would be writing, producing, and directing her next project, a fictional account which will focus on the "social and environmental" aspects of Hurricane Katrina while including a love story and a murder mystery. David Oyelowo, from Selma, will be part of the project.

In 2015, DuVernay created and executive produced alongside Oprah Winfrey the upcoming drama series, Queen Sugar, which is set to air on Oprah Winfrey Network.

In 2015, DuVernay will also executive produce and direct CBS civil rights crime drama pilot For Justice starring Anika Noni Rose.


Other work

In 2010, DuVernay directed several network music documentaries, including My Mic Sounds Nice for BET Networks and the Essence Music Festival 2010 for TV One.

In 2013, DuVernay partnered with Miu Miu as part of their ad campaign Women's Tales. Her short film The Door starred actress Gabrielle Union and reunited DuVernay with her Middle of Nowhere star Emayatzy Corinealdi. The film was later presented at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.

In August 2013, DuVernay released a second short film through Vimeo entitled Say Yes. The film was sponsored by cosmetic brand Fashion Fair and starred Kali Hawk and Lance Gross. Julie Dash, Victoria Mahoney, Lorraine Toussaint and Issa Rae appeared as extras in the film.

In September 2013, DuVernay started a podcast series called The Call-In, a series of phone conversations recorded by African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement ("AFFRM") of Black filmmakers of feature narrative and documentary work

On March 14, 2015, DuVernay gave a keynote address at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. In the speech, DuVernay shared that she was the seventh choice of people asked to direct Selma and described her experience as the 2015 Oscars, while being an honor to be able to attend, was just "a room in L.A."

Websites & Social Networks



  • 2015      Queen Sugar - Creator, executive producer, writer and director           
  • 2014      Selma - Director/Co-writer        
    • African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
    • Black Film Critics Award for Best Director
    • Black Reel Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–Satellite Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director
    • Nominated–NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Director
    • Nominated–Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director for Best Director
    • Nominated–Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director

  • 2013      Scandal - Director - Episode: "Vermont is For Lovers, Too"
  • 2013      Say Yes for Fashion Fair - Director/Writer Branded - Short
  • 2013      Venus Vs. - Director/Writer - Television Documentary
  • 2013      The Door for Prada - Director/Writer Branded - Short
  • 2012      Middle of Nowhere - Director/Writer - U.S. Directing
    • Award: Dramatic (2012 Sundance Film Festival)
  • 2011      I Will Follow - Director/Writer Narrative - Feature Film
  • 2010      My Mic Sounds Nice - Director/Executive Producer - Television Documentary
  • 2010      Essence Music Festival '10 - Director/Writer - Television Documentary
  • 2010      Faith Through the Storm - Director/Writer - Television Documentary
  • 2008      This Is the Life - Director/Producer - Feature Documentary
  • 2007      Compton in C Minor - Director/Producer - Short Documentary
  • 2006      Saturday Night Life - Director/Writer Narrative - Short