EXCLUSIVE: Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated director, producer and activist Ava DuVernay will be honored by PEN America with the Voice of Influence Award. The organization “unites writers and allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible” — something that is definitely in DuVernay’s wheelhouse.
DuVernay will be honored with the award at PEN America’s 2019 LitFest Gala on November 1 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. She will be in good company with fellow LitFest Gala honoree Diane Warren who will be honored with the Artistic Expression Award
“We are honored to recognize the unparalleled work that Ava DuVernay has done throughout her career, which constantly reminds us of the true purpose and power of storytelling,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “We admire the rigor with which her work has explored the lesser-heard, all-too-often suppressed voices of history. PEN America is proud to stand with leaders like Ava, who challenge and inspire us, and whose contributions further our mission to protect and celebrate creative expression and who use their words to transform the world.”
DuVernay was recently nominated for a staggering 16 Primetime Emmy Award nominations for When They See Us including nods for Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Director and Writer for a Limited Series. The critically acclaimed Netflix limited series that tells the story of the Exonerated Five. Her credits also include Selma and the criminal justice documentary 13th, both which coincide with the message of PEN America.
She also directed Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time which made her the highest-grossing black woman director in American box office history. She currently oversees production on the fourth season of her critically-acclaimed OWN drama Queen Sugar as well as the upcoming romance anthology Cherish the Day for Warner Brothers Television.
DuVernay made history as the first African-American filmmaker to win the Best Director prize at Sundance for her micro-budget, self-distributed feature Middle of Nowhere and continues to amplify the work of other people of color, women of all kinds and other underrepresented voices through her non-profit film collective ARRAY which recently named Tilane Jones as president.
Now in its 29th year, PEN America’s LitFest Gala is a celebration of free expression and literature. Funds raised at the LitFest Gala help fuel advocacy for writers, journalists, and artists threatened or imprisoned worldwide. Recently honored luminaries and participants include Ai Weiwei, Barry Jenkins, Roxane Gay, Isabel Allende, Jose Antonio Vargas, Margaret Atwood, Janet Mock, Norman Lear, Aisha Tyler, Amy Poehler, Cecile Richards, and many others.