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Over the course of the past decade-and-a-half, Ava DuVernay has established herself as one of the brightest and most vocal names in the entertainment industry with movies like I WILL FOLLOW, SELMA and A WRINKLE IN TIME, as well as several documentaries and TV shows like 13TH and “Cherish the Day.” During that time, the talented and award-winning writer, director and producer has been able to balance the good and bad, the light and the heavy, and with her latest feature film, ORIGIN, sadness and triumph.
Ahead of the film’s release, DuVernay sat down with AMC Theatres to discuss various aspects of her latest and most ambitious project. Throughout the conversation, she broke down how you can’t have triumph without something to overcome, praised its star, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, and talked about carrying out an intense 37-day shoot around the world to tell a story about history, racism and how the enduring human spirit has overcome pain and suffering to create a better tomorrow. Here she is in her own words:
Finding Triumph And Overcoming Trauma
In ORIGIN, journalist Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) comes to terms with an immense and unfathomable loss by investigating the caste system around the world, as well the racism that has been a part of the American experience since the country’s formative days. The movie admittedly sounds like a downer, but it’s so much more than that, and so much more hopeful. “It is easy to say it’s a sad film,” Ava DuVernay said during her AMC Theatres interview. “It’s actually a hopeful film, and it’s a film that at the end, it is triumphant.”
The acclaimed filmmaker believes that “in order to triumph, you have to get over something,” so she has to show the audience stuff to get over as the movie continues. Through violent imagery, difficult scenes, and the worst of human behavior, it is her hope that moviegoers walk out of the theatre asking themselves “How can I change, how can I do something differently in my own life and in the world?”
Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor Is A Singular Voice
At the center of ORIGIN is Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, who portrays the journalist who wrote “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” the non-fiction book on which the film is based. During her chat with AMC Theatres, DuVernay shared a great deal of praise about the KING RICHARD and THE COLOR PURPLE star for what she brought to the picture with her portrayal of Isabel Wilkerson’s struggle and journey to the big screen.
“Anju is a singular talent, a singular artist,” DuVernay said about the actress, adding, “She is someone who has such a rigorous process and yet it looks completely natural.” Further examining the performance at the heart of the unique biographical drama, the director added, “In every molecule of her, she becomes Isabel Wilkerson.” Upon watching the ORIGIN trailer, it’s evident that Ellis-Taylor dedicated every part of her mind, heart, and soul to bringing Wilkerson’s story to life and showing how the journalist embarked upon a life-changing and historical journey.
An Artisan Film With A Unique Vision
ORIGIN is considered an AMC Artisan Film, meaning that it brings a unique vision and perspective while also pushing boundaries and sparking conversations that will hopefully keep DuVernay’s film in the public consciousness long after the credits roll. It is also an incredibly ambitious film, one that sounds like an impressive undertaking, especially considering it consists of seven time periods, filmed on three different continents in a little more than a month’s time without the backing of a major studio. The director explained that “37 days to make a film of this scope and size is really unheard of, especially on a film outside of the studio system, and we did it.”
The filmmaker, who was told many times that she was in over her head with the immense scale of ORIGIN, had one thing to say to aspiring writers, directors, actors and other creatives who have been told their dreams were too big: “Get outside of the way people tell you it has to be done, there are no rules; rules are made up by people, you’re a person, make a new one.”
At the end of the day, Ava DuVernay not only made a movie about the caste system and the history of racism, but she also made a film about a “lady who’s going through a tough time and she’s uncovering a mystery.”
ORIGIN opened in January 2024 and is currently playing at AMC Theatres locations nationwide. If you want to further explore the movie and other Artisan Films, take a look at AMC Scene for all the latest news and features.
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