Film Forward

Why This Director's Upcoming Disney Movie Is A Milestone For Women Of Color

Breaking glass ceilings.

Ava DuVernay's upcoming Disney adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's beloved novel A Wrinkle in Time was only announced in February, but it's already breaking records.

As Melissa Silverstein of the blog Women and Hollywood points out, it's the first time a woman of color will direct a live-action film with a budget of more than $100 million.

DuVernay is only the third female director in history to helm a live-action film this size. The other two are Kathryn Bigelow (K-9: The Widowmaker, 2002) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, 2017).


DuVernay acknowledged the news on social media Wednesday. On Instagram, she wrote this:

Not the first woman of color capable. Not by a long shot. This should have happened a long time ago with Julie Dash or Euzhan Palcy or Kathleen Collins or Neema Barnette. We need more. And more. And more. More voices. More kinds and creeds and colors of filmmakers.

In response to a tweet counting 335 films in the $100 million range, she added, "Hollywood and audiences have missed some wonderful voices."

She also thanked Disney for "breaking this glass with me," as well as Oprah Winfrey, who will star in the film, for "always cheering me on."

DuVernay directed the 2014 Oscar-nominated film Selma, which chronicled Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for Black voter rights in 1965. Although the film was nominated for Best Picture, DuVernay was left out of the Best Director race. The snub came as a disappointment for many who were hoping to see the first woman of color in the category.

As Silverstein explains, DuVernay started her career in low-budget indie films. Selma's budget marked a major increase at $20 million.

And now DuVernay has crossed the $100 million mark — and only five years following the release of her first indie feature. She's done that on authenticity and talent. This is a normal path for male directors, but one rarely accessible to women.

Indeed, a study earlier this year found that only 9 percent of directors in the top 250 domestic grossing films were women. That percentage only rose to 12 percent for the top 500. And the industry is even tougher for women of color. Another study found that in the top 100 films of 2014, only two were directed by women, and only one of those women — Ava DuVernay — was black.

This news is just another milestone on what unfortunately continues to be a long road toward better representation in Hollywood, both on camera and behind it.

DuVernay is an important voice for the cause in more ways than just this latest accomplishment. Last year her film collective AFFRM (now called ARRAY) organized a Twitter campaign with 42 Black filmmakers to call for more diversity in the industry.

What's more, every episode of the first season of Queen Sugar, DuVernay's new TV series, is directed by a woman. It premieres September 6 on OWN.

(H/T: Women and Hollywood)


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