“Before directing “Selma,” one of last year’s most acclaimed films, and turning down a gig to direct Marvel’s “Black Panther,” Ava DuVernay was known to the world as a Hollywood publicist and the director of two small features.
Like most independent directors, she struggled to find an audience for her movies. Her second, “Middle of Nowhere,” was a modest success, winning a prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and making back slightly more than its budget at box office. In 2010, she completed “I Will Follow,” but she struggled to find it a home.
So DuVernay founded the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a collective designed to get movies into theaters. The collective got “I Will Follow” distribution. Since then the collective has been releasing about two films per year.
Now, in her post-“Selma” success, DuVernay is rebranding and expanding the collective as a company called “Array.” Under a new mandate, she’ll be helping women and other minorities get their films in front of audiences, whether in theaters or with streaming services.
“There’s a generation of filmmakers of color and women whose primary concern is that no one will see their work,” DuVernay told the Los Angeles Times. “And that is a huge barrier. They’re asking, ‘Why make something if no one will see it?'”
Gender disparity is a major issue in Hollywood. A recent study found that of the 1,300 top-grossing films since 2002, only one female-directed movie made the list out of every 23 by a man. Among independent features, the numbers are better but still dismal, with a 6-1 ratio of movies that premiere at Sundance.
Array recently released “Mississippi Damned,” which lit up the film festival circuit in 2009, on Netflix. There, it found new life after languishing without a distributor for six years.
“It’s a lifesaver. It really is,” Tina Mabry, the film’s director, told the Los Angeles Times. “Audiences can’t watch something if they don’t know it exists. Now with Netflix we’re finding the people we wanted to reach in the first place…”