Ava DuVernay - Speaking to Universal Experiences in "Queen Sugar"

September 7, 2016 - Ava DuVernay 09/07/2016 Views: 5,651

Ava DuVernay talks about transitioning from film to television with the series "Queen Sugar" and explains why she wants to highlight the lives of the formerly incarcerated. (4:29)

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Please welcome Ava DuVernay!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Appreciate it.

Thank you.

-Hello.-Wow. Hello.

-They're a little... -Whata great honor to have you here.

-I am so pleased to be herewith you. -It is such an honor.

You are one of the mostamazingly talented creators

of film that I haveever come across in my life,

the way you put storiestogether, the way, I mean...

You-You've been nominated forawards. You've won many awards.

So you know this. I'm notthe first person to tell you.

Uh, but-but cominginto this world...

I mean,we-we've just seen the clip.

What are you looking forwhen you are creating a story

like this? What are you lookingfor from the actors?

What are you looking forfrom the story itself?

Well, TV's very differentthan film.

And I think I underestimatedhow different it was.

-Yeah.-It's the elongated story.

Film is a couple of hours.

Uh, television is 13 hoursin its first season,

and you're creating something

that you hope goes onfor many seasons.

You know, uh, Queen Sugar is a...

-It's a really gripping tale...-Mm.

...told in a beautiful way,of a family

who's had to come home,really, to take over,

you know, their father'ssugar farm.

Like, what I foundfascinating was...

You know, I read up on the show,and then I watched it.

And some peoplewere describing it as,

-"Oh, a beautiful black show,a black..." -Mm-hmm.

-And I was like, "But it's nota black show." -Mm-hmm.

-It's a show.-Mm.

And the people in the showhappen to be black.

-Right. -Do you consciouslydo that in a story,

or is thatjust something that happens

when you tell a story well?

Um, yeah, I mean, I thinkthere's a universality

in the specifics.

So, you know,I love Korean films,

I love Iranian films,I love Israeli television,

-Yeah. -I love, you know,all kinds of things that I love.

I'm sure there's somethingin South Africa

I would love if I saw it.

-Well, our parliament, yeah,definitely. -Um, yeah, yeah,

something great.

That was weird.

Oh, but, uh--that was really kind of gross.

But, um...

but, um, but yeah,and so I think that there's

something beautifulin the specificity,

but when you're watchingsomething so closely

at a specific point, you know,in some way it kind of morphs

into your own experience,you know,

some kind of universal themesthat we all can hold onto.

-Yes. -So yeah, you know, peoplethink I was just born with Selma

but I actuallyhad made films before then,

and all those films-- I Will Follow,

and Middle of Nowhere-- were about just stories

where black peoplewere centered.

It wasn't necessarilyabout their blackness.

-Yes.-Yeah. So...

It is funny how, like you said

the stories in their specificityspeak to something larger.

-Mm-hmm. -Becausein the show Queen Sugar,

I think one of the brothers...

-uh, is a man who has justcome out of prison. -Mm-hmm.

And he struggles, he strugglesgetting to grips with real life.

-Yeah.-And I also happened to see,

um, the documentary made, The 13th,

-Mm-hmm. -which is reallyspeaking to that.

Just like the ideaof how America's system

unfortunatelyhas almost been created

to keep peoplefrom reintegrating with society

once they've come out of prison.

That was anotherpowerful story again.

You have so many choices,so many things to do--

why choose that story to tell?

Yeah, I mean, the issue ofincarceration and the way that

we treat, um, um, the "criminal"in this country--

who-who's the criminal,who's not, what do we regard

as a crime,what do we let pass--

is something that'salways fascinated with...

fascinated me. So in the...

in Queen Suga we have acharacter, Ralph Angel Bordelon,

this formerly incarcerated man.

And so much in it is about,uh, inviting Americans

to kind of chronicleand get to know someone

who's formerly incarcerated.And really see

how we make these folkssecond-class citizens

in this country. Can't vote,can't apply for student loans,

have to check a boxto get a job.

I mean, really, it's... You'vepaid your "debt to society"--

um, at what pointare you free of it?

What's the most important thingyou're doing

when creating a film--whether it be a documentary,

whether it be even a TV series--

what's the one thing you'retrying to do when you make it?

Gosh, what a-what a toughquestion, thanks.

This is supposed to besoftballs. Okay. Uh... -(laughs)

I don't know.

Um, I'm just trying to givea piece of myself, you know?

I don't take director for hireprojects, which just, you know--

here's a script and a checkand go make it.

Just really things that aredeeply felt. You know,

I feel like we all havea short amount of time here.

Um, but that time can be longif what you do here resonates.

Whether it's just, you know,being good to your family and

friends, whether it's creatingsomething that's remembered.

Um, so I'm just tryingto put a piece of myself in it,

whatever it is, and that's mygoal with everything I do.

-It's a goal that you'reachieving every day. -Yeah.

-Thank you so much for beinghere. -Yeah, thank you.