The DuVernay Test
The “DuVernay Test” consists of some simple questions, such as: do black people in this story have autonomous lives or do they only exist in relation to white characters? It was created in 2016 by the New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis to objectively assess how black people are represented in films and TV series, and it is not difficult to understand why it is named after Ava DuVernay: she was the first African-American director to be nominated for an Oscar in 2015 for Best Picture with Selma – The Road to Freedom. The film retraced the famous marches led by Martin Luther King in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote for blacks in America. But also her previous and subsequent works are part of a path of denunciation of the structural discrimination of African-Americans in the United States: such as the mass incarceration of the Thirteenth Amendment or the case of the children victims of racism of the American justice in When They See Us.
Ava is in Venice, where she came to receive the DVF Award, the recognition created by the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg to reward women who dedicate themselves to improving the lives of other women. After our interview, the same evening, she will embrace her friend Hillary Clinton before getting on the podium to make a speech about female power. The charisma of a politician is not lacking. “It is important that women celebrate other women, it is essential that we shine for each other: no one will do it for us,” she says. Why is there often a lack of female solidarity? “Because we live in a system that is not structured to encourage women to support each other and show solidarity towards each other. Our society is based on competition and hierarchy, and I think the only way we can come out on top is to join forces, give each other a hand and break down this way of thinking. It seems so simple but no one teaches it to girls.”
Growing Up in a Matriarchy
How did you learn it? “I grew up in a family of women: grandmother and mother at the top and then me with two sisters and two brothers. When you form in a matriarchy, you learn certain values quickly. My mother has always been a role model for me.” Tell us. “After turning 30, she quit everything and started over: she was an administrative manager in a hospital and left her job to do what she had always wanted to do, a kindergarten teacher. She was brave.” You also changed your life at that age: before working in public relations for cinema, you chose the camera at 32. “I was a public relations officer for film studios and I loved my job. I was always on sets, watching directors work and often I would find myself thinking: why is he taking that shot? I would do it this way. And then one day I said enough, I left everything and I put myself to the test“.