Perfect Pairings: Ava DuVernay to Direct Adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste for Netflix

Illustration for article titled Perfect Pairings: Ava DuVernay to Direct Adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste for Netflix
Photo: Mark Von Holden (AP)

Ava DuVernay is back in the director’s chair once again, this time for a feature film adaptation based on Isabel Wilkerson’s New York Times bestseller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.


The film will use a multiple-story structure to depict how racial hierarchies have shaped life for generations of Americans. It also marks her first feature film with Netflix, reuniting her with Tendo Nagenda, an executive at the studio and streaming platform who worked with DuVernay on the 2018 fantasy film, A Wrinkle in Time.

DuVernay is a natural choice for adapting Caste, Wilkerson’s second NYT bestseller. A recent Oprah Book Club selection, Caste aims to provide a new framework and vocabulary for understanding America’s history of racial segregation and how it connects to global examples of societal oppression. With Caste, DuVernay builds upon a cinematic oeuvre that has been concerned with amplifying and illuminating racial justice issues. Her previous work with Netflix includes the documentary The 13th, which centers on how America’s history of slavery led to modern-day mass incarceration, and When They See Us, a limited series telling the story of the “Exonerated Five,” five Black and Latino teenage boys falsely accused and convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in the 1980s.

Both The 13th and When They See Us were met with critical acclaim, with the former netting the director Emmy and Peabody awards, as well as an Oscar nomination. When They See Us also garnered 16 Emmy nominations, with a historic win for star Jharrel Jerome for his portrayal of Korey Wise.

In conversation with The Root in August, DuVernay said she sees film as a natural and integral part of social justice and activism.

“Art is the foundation of any movement,” the filmmaker told The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton.

The Caste project isn’t the only one DuVernay has queued up with Netflix. She’s also producing a limited series, Colin In Black & White, based on the adolescent life of athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick.

Staff writer, The Root.