Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has had a lot of firsts. She was the first African-American woman to win the US Directing Award at Sundance, the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe, and the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Now, with A Wrinkle in Time, she’ll be the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.
DuVernay is best known for her films Selma and 13th, as well as OWN’s Queen Sugar television series. Her complete resume is much longer, with credits for writing, directing, and executive producing a number of shorts, feature films, documentaries, and even music videos and commercials. A Wrinkle in Time may be the project that makes her a truly household name. Nerdist says that the film “is priming to have just as big an impact as Wonder Woman and Black Panther.”
A Wrinkle in Time is an adaptation of a fantasy novel by beloved author Madeleine L’Engle. As Time describes, the story “is about what it means to be a source of light in a world in which darkness seems only to proliferate” while also making the case “for thinking independently when conformity is the norm.” In other words, it’s a pretty relevant film for right now.
DuVernay thought very carefully about casting for the film. She wanted a mix of races, sizes, and ages. But more than that, “I wasn’t just casting for actresses. I was casting for leaders—icons,” she says. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling will star, along with Chris Pine, Michael Peña, and newcomer Storm Reid. In casting with diversity in mind, DuVernay says “We’re not doing anything that shouldn’t have already been done.”
DuVernay wasn’t just concerned about the inclusiveness and diversity of her cast. She insisted on it for the crew as well. She said that it’s “not normal to see this many women and people of color on a crew” but that Disney was more than happy to give her control to make that decision. She also makes it a habit to treat everyone on set with the same respect, from the actors to the gaffers, the makeup artists to craft services.
At its core, DuVernay says, the film is about a girl of color “saving the world from darkness, and in the film, darkness is defined as the darkness within us. She’s saving us from ourselves.” That’s a powerful and timely idea.
A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters on March 9, 2018.