Ava DuVernay was presented with the Visionary Award tonight at the PGA Awards by her Wrinkle in Time star Reese Witherspoon, but when taking the stage she shifted the focus off of her and used the opportunity to talk about social awareness, inclusion, and to remember the late Allison Shearmur.
“I was excited to come here today because we’re gathering on another historic day of the women’s march. It’s an interesting day because we had the women’s march in the midst of a government shutdown,” she said. “We have moments where people like me are at an intersection of Black Lives Matter and Me Too and Time’s Up. In short, we’re in the midst of times that will be long remembered, and I can’t help but ask the question of how will we be remembered in these times.”
She goes on to remember Shearmur and how she created opportunities for people of color and underrepresented voices. “That is what we should be remembered for — the work that we put in this world,” she says, referencing Shearmur. “Even more importantly is the way that we work. The people that we actually choose to see, that we choose to amplify in the moments when no one is looking and the moments when everyone is looking.”
DuVernay, known for championing diversity and inclusion, said there are talks about “rights and wrongs in the industry.”
“I just want to take a second to say you don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do….to pivot from prejudice,” she continues. “It’s not a trend, it’s a reality — a reality that our industry has betrayed in so many ways over the decades. So not to think of diversity as a good thing to do, think of it as an absolute must, something that must be done.”
Each year, the Visionary Award recognizes film, TV or new media producers for their unique or uplifting contributions to our culture through inspiring storytelling or performance. DuVernay is being recognized for her work in creating topical films and TV shows focusing on important social issues. They include the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning doc 13th about race and the prison system in America, and the critically acclaimed OWN drama series Queen Sugar.
Her upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle in Time makes her the first black woman to direct a film budgeted over $100 million.