Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay Headshot

Director • Writer

Birth Date: August 24, 1972

Age: 51 years old

Birth Place: Long Beach, California

A gifted, socially conscious writer, director and producer, Ava DuVernay went from in-demand publicist to helming her own projects when she saw a gap in the marketplace for non-stereotypical African-American independent films. After experiencing success with the award-winning documentaries "This is the Life" (2008) and "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop" (BET, 2010), DuVernay turned her focus to narratives features with the acclaimed tale of moving on from grief, "I Will Follow" (2011), the first release from her industry-changing collective, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).

DuVernay impressed critics even further with her follow-up, "Middle of Nowhere" (2012), the story of a woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who makes enormous personal sacrifices to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick) but eventually reaches a personal crossroads. Her film dramatizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965 civil rights march, "Selma" (2014), was even more acclaimed. Earning massive acclaim across the board, DuVernay made history as the first African-American winner of Best Director from the Sundance Film Festival.

Blessed with a huge talent to match her social conscience, Ava DuVernay excited critics and fans who were proud to join her in championing challenging African-American independent films of depth and substance. DuVernay also broke ground on television with a collaboration with longtime friend and mentor Oprah Winfrey, "Queen Sugar" (OWN 2016- ) and was tapped to direct the film version of the classic children's fantasy "A Wrinkle In Time," making her the first African-American woman to helm a feature with a budget over one hundred million dollars.

Born Aug. 24, 1972 in Long Beach, CA, Ava Marie DuVernay started her career as a publicist, founding The DuVernay Agency, a.k.a. DVA Media + Marketing, and providing services for a variety of television and film projects, including "Girlfriends" (UPN, 2000-06; The CW, 2006-08), "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), "Dreamgirls" (2006) and "Cop Out" (2010). Through the course of her work, she noted the lack of funding and support for African-American independent films, and set her sights on helping to remedy the problem.

She made her writing and directing debut with the short "Saturday Night Life" (2006) before writing, directing and producing the alternative hip-hop documentary "This is the Life" (2008). Jubilant and charming, the film made quite the critical splash, winning awards from the Hollywood Black Film Festival, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival and the Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival, as well as a Black Reel Award nomination.

Buoyed by her success and committed to helping tell important stories, DuVernay produced and directed the Black Reel-nominated "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop" (BET, 2010) but made her narrative debut by writing, directing and producing "I Will Follow" (2011), a tale of a young African-American woman coming to terms with her aunt's death and her attempts to rebuild and restart her own life in the shadow of such loss. The powerful indie, shot and released on a shoestring budget, impressed many critics, and earned two Black Reel Award nominations as well as mainstream media attention when many outlets, including the New York Times, covered the fact that the film marked the first release of DuVernay's African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), an attempt to help change the overwhelmingly white face of up-and-coming independent film.

She achieved an amazing breakthrough with her next writing-directing-producing effort, the downbeat but dazzling drama "Middle of Nowhere" (2012), the tale of a young nurse (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who gives up much of her own life and goals to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick). Inspired by the strength and heartbreak of neighborhood women in similar situations, DuVernay's film delved into the complicated feelings, lingering sacrifices and divided loyalties in both inmates as well as loved ones left outside. It also offered viewers a rare non-stereotypical onscreen portrait of fully realized, complex African-American characters. Nominated for a Gotham Award and a Humanitas Prize, "Middle of Nowhere" also earned a Grand Jury Prize nomination from the Sundance Film Festival. DuVernay herself made history when she became the first African-American to win the Directing Award from Sundance. DuVernay's next film, "Selma" (2014), dramatized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggles during the era-defining civil rights march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Powered by David Oyelowo's magnetic performance as King, "Selma" earned both critical acclaim and box office success on a greater level than DuVernay's earlier films. DuVernay's next major project was the television series "Queen Sugar" (OWN 2016- ), executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. In 2016, she was announced as the director of the film adaptation of children's fantasy best-seller "A Wrinkle In Time."

By Jonathan Riggs

Credits

Becoming KingStream

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2023

OriginStream

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One Perfect ShotStream

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NaomiStream

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DMZStream

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Colin in Black & WhiteStream

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Colin in Black & WhiteStream

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Home Sweet Home

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2021

CBS Mornings

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2021

The White TigerStream

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A Concerto Is a Conversation

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The Drew Barrymore ShowStream

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2020

OWN Spotlight The Culture Connection to August 28th, with Ava DuVernay and Rev. Sharpton

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2020

OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here?

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2020

Dear...Stream

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2020
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Cherish the DayStream

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2020

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The Kelly Clarkson ShowStream

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2019

Tamron HallStream

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2019

Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now

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2019

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When They See UsStream

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The Red LineStream

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2019
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Today With Hoda & Jenna

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2019

Trailblazer Honors 2019

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2019

Desus & Mero

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2019

Desus & Mero: Extras

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2019

Today 3rd Hour

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2018

Cultureshock: Chris Rock's Bring the Pain

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2018

August 28: A Day in the Life of a People

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2018

Shine On with Reese

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2018

Extras: Shine On with Reese

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2018

A Wrinkle in Time: Extras

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2018

American Woman With Brooke Baldwin

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2018

A Wrinkle in Time

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2018

Half the Picture

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2018

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13th: A Conversation With Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay

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2017

Queen SugarStream

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2016

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Today's Take

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13TH

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The Daily Show with Trevor NoahStream

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2015

The Late Show With Stephen ColbertStream

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2015

Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter

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2015

Black Girls Rock! 2015

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2015

For Justice

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2015

For Justice

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2015

Women of Power

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2014

Oprah Prime

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2014

Late Night With Seth MeyersStream

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2014

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonStream

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2014

Being Mary JaneStream

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2014

Life Itself

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2014

SelmaStream

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2014
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SelmaStream

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2014
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Hello Beautiful's Interludes: John Legend

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2013

The Real

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2013

Nine for IX

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2013

99 Percent: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film

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2013

The Root 100

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2012

ScandalStream

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2012
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Finding Your RootsStream

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2012

CBS This Morning

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2012

Middle of Nowhere

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2012

Middle of Nowhere

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Middle of Nowhere

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Dish Nation

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2011

The Talk

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2010

Essence Presents: Faith in 2010

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2010

Essence Presents: Faith in 2010

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2010

Access Hollywood Live

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2010

TV One Night Only: 2010 Essence Music Festival

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2010

I Will Follow

Director
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2010

I Will Follow

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2010

I Will Follow

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2010

My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop

Director
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2010

My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop

Executive Producer
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2010

The Laura Flanders Show

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2008

This Is the Life

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2008

This Is the Life

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2008

This Is the Life

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2008

etalk

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2006

Entertainment Tonight Canada

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2005

Tavis Smiley

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The Ellen DeGeneres Show

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2003

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

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1999

Black Filmmaker Showcase

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The View

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Access HollywoodStream

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Entertainment Tonight

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Oscar-Nominated Director Ava DuVernay Joins TCM’s ‘The Essentials’

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