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How Ava DuVernay Blazes a Path Through Hollywood (Guest Blog)

We Do It Together Blog: ”DuVernay has has been at the forefront of pushing culture forward,“ writes Kenny Copeland Jr.

Art and film have always been the bridge-way into our imaginations, an orchestrated path created at the hands of a master magician linking together sight, sound, and color to create new and inventive realities that play out on screen. However, these realities are more than entertainment, they are cultural influence pieces that affect society and how we view the world.

As the saying goes, artists always hides themselves within their art. It is by their vision that culture is influenced and moves forward, creating another reason that various storytellers are needed to accurately reflect a diverse, rich world. Over the last five years, we’ve seen more artists rise and have witnessed how their art has shaped society. One such artist who has taken a profound step forward in influencing culture is a woman by the name of Ava DuVernay.

Ava DuVernay is a talented female director known for films such as “Selma,” “13th” and most recently “A Wrinkle in Time,” starring amazing female leads such as Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Storm Reid.

With this film, DuVernay gives us a visually stunning world to explore while tackling themes. The story centers around Storm’s character, Meg, as she searches for her father in an incredible journey helped along by other amazing characters that include Mrs. Which, played by Winfrey, as well as others.

DuVernay has has been at the forefront of pushing culture forward for quite some time. She has a background in PR and marketing and founded her own PR company. She is also one of the first women to helm a big-budget studio film as its director.

However, we still stand at the crossroads of celebration and disappointment as few other women have had the opportunity to be in a similar position. Statistically more men are given the opportunity to helm big-budget pictures at a rate that far outpaces their female counterparts.

It begs the question of how many other Ava DuVernays could be lying in wait ready for an opportunity to share their work. The mere fact that DuVernay has cracked the glass ceiling is something to be applauded — but why is she in a class of her own?

What’s intriguing about “A Wrinkle in Time” is how the story is told from the perspective of a largely diverse cast with a nonwhite female child as the lead protagonist. The choice helps create the idea that young women as well as individuals from diverse groups can be their own heroes, with the competency, skill and intellect to lead their story.

DuVernay is no stranger to telling the stories of underrepresented communities on screen. In her documentary “13th,” she gave a scathing review of the criminal justice system and institutional racism at the expense of African Americans. Yet the story is not told in a way that accuses but rather exposes problems in the hope of making things better.

Through a shared experience happening on movie screens, phones, tablets and other medias, we are can be entertained and enlightened at the hands of diverse female filmmakers like Ava DuVernay and others. It is by forward-thinking individuals that we press on and continue the work that has been started. It is not the responsibility of women or men to push forward this progress. But rather it is the responsibility of us all to continue to bridge the gap to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to be successful.

This is part of a blog series by We Do It Together, a nonprofit film production entity created to produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women. 

Kenny Copeland Jr. is an actor and improv artist from Los Angeles whose credits include Judd Apatow's "Funny People" and "Crossing Over." He has also appeared in various commercial campaigns for brands that include XBOX, Cinemark and MTV.