It was the third win at the Creative Arts Emmy for Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th. With a total of eight noms this year, DuVernay picked up the award for Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Special.
“It was a beautiful process,” she said, “but it was an emotional process to steep yourself in,” referencing the 100 years of racial oppression documented in 13th.
DuVernay used the opportunity on stage at the Emmys to draw attention to the plight of families affected by the prevalence of incarceration in the U.S. “I want to thank, and think about tonight the hundreds of thousands of families who are waiting for their loved ones to come home,” she said. “Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, who don’t know where their loved one is. Unsung heroes of a struggle that has not a lot to do with them, but has a lot to do with how they live each day.”
Clearly highlighting the current political climate, DuVernay then spoke in support of those who are being “aggressively demoralized and devalued. It’s important that we stand up and be heard,” she said, referring to the “people who try to silence us.”
DuVernay’s support and speech continued when she and the team behind 13th stepped backstage after accepting the award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special as well as Writing for Nonfiction Programs. “It’s nights like these when you are able to amplify a story with this kind of attention that make me happy,” DuVernay said. “This is an evergreen story. It’s ongoing. It wasn’t just something that we dropped last year. It shouldn’t be forgotten. There are still 2.3 million people behind bars. We over-incarcerate in this country — the most incarcerated nation in the world. Now, more than ever, it’s important for people who believe in a different way of policing and criminal justice to make our voices heard.”
When asked what kind of justice system she’d like to see, Ava remarked, “a system that doesn’t discriminate against people who live in marginalized communities” as opposed to those affluent neighborhoods. “There’s a way to do it where it’s more balanced and fair.”
During the backstage Q&A DuVernay said that more have seen 13th in a year than any other film or television show she has directed. She was also asked if she had read a Los Angeles Times article about how there was an increase in policing in affluent neighborhoods, like ones with celebrities, DuVernay didn’t seem fazed. “Interesting, I haven’t read that yet.”
Given the program’s impact, DuVernay was asked if a sequel was in the works. The filmmaker said there weren’t any formal plans for a follow-up but “the team and I are looking at other areas of social justice that we may be interested in tackling.”
Also taking an Emmy home this evening for the 13th was Common, who won the trophy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the song” Letter To The Free.” The musician/actor and DuVernay previously collaborated on Selma. Common and John Legend wrote the film’s song “Glory” which won an Academy Award.
“He always wins. Everything we do together he wins,” said DuVernay. “If he didn’t win I’d be surprised. We’re really like-minded when it comes when to art and music.”