Ava DuVernay, director of the Academy Award-nominated films “Selma” and “13th,” and the recent release “A Wrinkle in Time,” will speak at Senior Convocation at noon on Saturday, May 26, during Cornell’s 2018 Graduation Weekend in Schoellkopf Stadium. The event is open to the public.
“Ava DuVernay is an incredibly inspiring and accomplished activist, filmmaker and producer, and she truly represents our core values of inclusion, equality, humor and excellence,” said Elizabeth Gorman ’18, chair of the Senior Convocation Committee, which chooses the speaker.
DuVernay, a 1995 graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, directed “Selma,” which chronicles the 1965 voting rights campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 2014, including best picture. It won best original song at the Academy Awards. DuVernay became the first African-American woman to be nominated in the best director category for a Golden Globe.
In 2016 the critically acclaimed feature-length documentary “13th” was released on Netflix. Deriving its title from the 13th Amendment, the film explores racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the prison system. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary, and it won three Emmy Awards.
DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” – the film version of Madeleine L'Engle’s science fantasy adventure, starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling – was released in February.
DuVernay made her directorial debut in 2008 with the hip-hop documentary, "This Is the Life” – winner of the audience awards at the Toronto, Los Angeles and Seattle film festivals. She also won the best director award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film, “Middle of Nowhere,” inspired by her aunt who died of cancer in 2003.
In 2010, she wrote, financed, produced and directed her first narrative feature, “I Will Follow,” a family drama hailed by film critic Roger Ebert as “one of the best films I’ve seen about the loss of a loved one.”
DuVernay founded ARRAY, a community-based distribution collective dedicated to amplifying films by women and people of color. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She sits on the boards of Film Independent and the Sundance Institute. She was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2017.