Diversity–both behind and in front of the camera–is finally commanding serious considerations in Hollywood, as smart, savvy creators and audiences demand the films they make and see reflect a more inclusive perspective. At Aperture, director Ava DuVernay and cinematographer and director of photography Bradford Young–a frequent collaborator–discuss the role of race in the industry and the power of cinema.
By Ava DuVernay and Bradford Young at Aperture:
Bradford Young: It’s not like jazz or hip-hop—art forms that started as expressions of dissonance and resistance. Filmmaking isn’t part of our organic narrative as black people in America. We’re asking people who were very much interested in making sure film communicated white supremacist values, like the founding fathers of the film experience—D. W. Griffith, Thomas Edison, these people who were very interested in white supremacy—we’re asking the sort of grandchildren of those people to allow us into the filmmaking experience with a whole counterpoint to why they started it. You know what I mean? It didn’t start off as an art form of resistance. Actually what you said earlier is the real purpose of why we do this. It’s like trying to etch in real time our mind’s camera, our mind’s image-making capacity. It generates images so that we can deal with life. So the way I navigate it, I think, is that I’ve just got to stay focused on the possibility that one day it could be completely turned over on its head and transformed.
Ava DuVernay: Those words are moving. As you were talking, a conversation that I had with Ryan Coogler came to mind. We were looking at the statistics that just came out from the Directors Guild of America about super-disturbing numbers that really starkly lay out the omission and the absence and the disappearing of voices other than white men in the guild, or the industry or whatever. It went by year and by studio, by gender and by race. It was like, one woman director at Paramount in 2015, two people of color directors at Warner Bros. in 2013–14, etcetera. We were trippin’ out, because he rightly remarked, “That one at that studio in that year is you, and I’m one of the two in this year.” So we were talking about those numbers; they might as well have had our names on it. We are the numbers on the chart at this moment. Ain’t nobody else around. Like, who are we looking for? Ain’t nobody coming to help us. Know what I mean? There’s one person in that column and it’s you and you’re standing there next to one other person at another studio in the other year and that’s your homie. So how do you reconcile being part of a larger industry, a larger energy that’s making a certain thing when you lay the numbers out and we literally are standing alone amongst a lot of opposition, misunderstanding, purposeful omission, all of that.
This story was originally published on May 19th, 2016.