- Faith & Family
In today’s film industry, there are so many bad movies being produced that most people tend to wait until they debut on cable. But once in a great while, a real gem emerges. Last Friday, an independent Black film, written and directed by a Black woman, Ava DuVernay, opened in Miami. And from our vantage point, Middle of Nowhere is a bona fide masterpiece.
But don’t take our word for it. DuVernay, 40, beat out a list of prominent candidates to take the Directing Award, U.S. Dramatic 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival for her work on Nowhere, her second feature film. No other Black female director can say the same.
“It’s an amazing feeling and of course it boosts my confidence,” she said. “But there have been other women worthy of this award who have done amazing work. I suppose this is just my time and I’m honored.”
DuVernay — a poet at heart
The film opens with a young woman haunted by memories and solitary in her thoughts while riding on a crowded city bus. Ruby, played superbly by Emayatzy Corinealdi [a stunning Panamanian-American], is on her way to visit her husband Derek [Omari Hardwick], a convicted felon deep in the throes of an eight-year sentence. Ruby, fighting to support her husband, has abandoned her dream of medical school, lost her identity and is constantly troubled by feelings of shame, isolation, guilt and grief. After a chance meeting with a handsome bus driver named Brian [David Oyelowo] and the realization that her husband has been far from squeaky clean while behind bars, she is forced to reconsider her life. As the movie unfolds, Ruby undergoes a powerful transformation. In the process, we witness the rebirth of a broken woman, finally on the way to becoming whole again.
The cinematography, music and cast — which includes veteran actress Lorraine Toussaint as Ruby’s mother Ruth — are woven together in masterful fashion. But the real beauty of this film may well be the words themselves. DuVernay is more often identified as a director and marketing executive, than as a writer. But she pulls out all the stops, akin to the kind of metaphoric beauty that movie buffs may recall from Black film classics like Poetic Justice or Jason’s Lyric.
She says it makes a difference when a woman is the writer and behind the camera too.
“I think we would all benefit if there were more films made by women because we bring a different perspective,” she said. “My interpretation of the story and my reflections about each characters are colored by my own experiences as a Black woman in America. It’s not that mine are better — they are just different.”
Middle of Nowhere opened a week ago in LA, NY, Atlanta, Philly and DC with an impressive $13,000 per screen average. She hopes viewers in Miami will be equally impressed with the film.
“I think this is the kind of story where there is something with which everyone can identify,” she said. “Look for Emayatzy who is in every scene — she is a true lead and is incredible in her performance, despite it being her first time as the star. The ensemble of actors made my work easy. Their performances were exquisite. I just hope that audiences around the country will give this film a chance.”
By D. Kevin McNeir