Fashion and Friendship Explored on Film

Director Ava DuVernay talks to The Root about working with Prada, Gabrielle Union and Alfre Woodard.

Ava DuVernay (Getty Images Entertainment)
Ava DuVernay (Getty Images Entertainment)

(The Root) — Anyone who’s ever been lifted out of a bad case of sads by a new shade of lipstick, slinky red dress or sexy new ‘do will absolutely identify with writer-director Ava DuVernay’s new short film, The Door, released this week. The fifth installment in Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales series, DuVernay’s film charts the transformative power of clothes and friendship in a tight story that clocks in at just under eight minutes.

But oh what a marvelous eight minutes they are. Featuring the jaw-dropping designs of Miuccia Prada against an equally stunning set, actresses Gabrielle Union, Adepero Oduye, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Goapele and Alfre Woodard weave a silent yet resounding tale of love in the time of closet envy. DuVernay, who in 2012 became the first black woman to win the Sundance Film Festival’s best director award for her feature film Middle of Nowhere, recently talked to The Root about black women, friendship and high fashion.

The Root: How did Miu Miu first approach you for its Women’s Tales series?

Ava DuVernay: It was shortly after Sundance in 2012 where my film Middle of Nowhere was honored. Miu Miu approached me through my agent and just offered it to me, which was lovely for me. I’m an independent filmmaker, so I don’t go in pitching my projects. I just write my stuff and make it myself. So to have someone from the other side of the world recognize the work I’ve been doing and offer me the space to create something was really unexpected and really lovely.

TR: Tell us the story behind The Door.

AD: It’s basically a story about friendship among women. The ways in which our sisters, the women in our lives, really hold us up at times when we can’t hold ourselves up. They help us walk through those doors. They tell us where those doors are.

For black women — and, really for all women — the friendships that we share are far from catty, far from competitive, far from the things that are talked about when you actually get women together. So the film is about a woman who is in a dark place, and each one of her friends comes to her door bringing their own healing, and eventually she’s able to walk through the door on her own.

TR: From Adepero Oduye to Alfre Woodard, the actresses in the film are absolutely stunning and talented. How did you go about casting the film?

AD: It starts with me and my casting director, Aisha Coley, in a room trying to figure out who has the flesh and blood and DNA to bring these characters to life. I knew that I wanted to work with five women. Alfre Woodard was the first person who came to mind. I was thrilled when she gave a very quick, enthusiastic yes.