“Ava’s looking forward to speaking with you,” one of Array’s publicists said via the phone. (Array is Ava DuVernay’s grassroots distribution, arts and advocacy collective focused on films by people of color and women.)
I smiled harder than necessary at the publicist’s statement, since I was the only one in the room and on the phone with her. But the publicist just told me that one of my favorite humans wants to talk to me about the rerelease of her latest feature film, A Wrinkle in Time, just in time for Mother’s Day weekend!
The smile on my lips stayed put as I waited and transferred the call to speakerphone. I was readying myself for a phone interview with the one and only Ava DuVernay. The publicist continued, “She’s on her way to the phone now.” My heart skipped.
I’ve interviewed DuVernay before. I’ve been in rooms with DuVernay before. But there’s just something about her angelic presence that rocks me. She’s constantly poised, her raspy voice singing into the canals of your ear, her smile wrestling with your feels. That presence of hers still rocked me even though I could only hear her voice. “Danielle! How are you, sis?”
“How is France, my darling?” I asked DuVernay.
“Sexy! We are having a blast. It’s so much fun,” she said, laughing through her words. Not only was this superstar director giving me some of her precious time, but she was doing so from Cannes, where she’s living her best director life. She continued:
You know, I was just talking to Zinzi [Evans] about this, Ryan Coogler’s wife. She said we find ourselves in these situations and we enjoy them, but we know it’s not real life. And I told her I think it’s an exclamation point. The sentence is real life, and it’s nice every once in a while to add a little punctuation mark. We’re lucky we get to have these moments, premieres and Oscars. It’s a lot of hard work in between. But when you get a little bit of time to celebrate and be with friends, it’s really nice.
From Compton to Cannes, DuVernay is having more and more of these surreal moments to revel in. “I would always evoke Compton,” DuVernay said as I imagined her chest inflating with pride.
She continued: “Films really influenced my worldview. Being in Compton and being able to understand that the idea of family or people in Iran or Japan or South America from film, being able to see different kinds of people or cultures and stories, but yet to see that they’re all very similar, [it all] came from film.”
So, wait: If DuVernay evokes Compton, Calif., in all she does, did it also show up in her latest film, A Wrinkle in Time? “Even when I was making A Wrinkle in Time, I would always evoke Compton because a girl from Compton getting to make the big fantasy movies for other girls like me who never get to see themselves. That’s a big part of what I’m trying to do and everything that I make,” she said.
If you haven’t seen A Wrinkle in Time in theaters yet, don’t fret. The powers that be at Disney have chosen to rerelease the epic film for Mother’s Day weekend. That means, if you haven’t made Mother’s Day plans yet, you can take Mommy to see this! It’s so worth it. DuVernay says: “So cool! It’s very rare and lovely. We’re getting such great feedback from families, we’re giving it one more run before it goes to DVD.”
DuVernay says that making A Wrinkle in Time was a beautiful experience. And honestly, I could say the same thing about watching it. She urged us to watch the film with a “child’s eye,” and I did. To say that watching Storm Reid star as a little girl of color as a lead in a fantasy film was emotional is not saying enough. I cried real tears, like a baby, y’all.
And you will, too, with your mother right by your side. DuVernay won’t be able to see Wrinkle with her mother for the rerelease because she’s in Cannes being amazing.
“I’ll be in France again this year while my mother is in Montgomery, Ala. I hope everyone that has the opportunity brings their mom for a beautiful day,” she said.
Before we hung up, she and I had a candid conversation about how Wrinkle fared with critics and numbers, and she put it plainly: “When you look at different fantasy films targeted for kids, it over-indexed from other films of the time. I think people took the film too seriously in terms of wanting it to be like Selma or Black Panther, part 2. It lives and breathes in the world far beyond an opening weekend.”
I agreed with DuVernay with my whole heart and said, “Well, you know what it is,” to which she replied, “Yeah, I know what it is.”
Wrinkle is history-making: This movie was the first feature film with a $100 million budget helmed by a black woman, and in its opening weekend, the top two spots at the box office were occupied by black directors (DuVernay and Ryan Coogler for Black Panther).
She concluded, “One of the things that no one is talking about it the fact that this film is now the highest-grossing film in American box-office history by a black woman.”
Well, amen! So let’s keep supporting this film and its wins: Go see A Wrinkle in Time over Mother’s Day weekend.