Director Ava DuVernay has accused America's film critics of institutionalised prejudice whenever they struggle to contain their shock over the success of minority-driven movies.
The woman behind Selma has called attention to press reactions surrounding 2015 film Straight Outta Compton to make her point, explaining the film about the rise of gangster rap group N.W.A. stunned many so-called experts when it hauled in over $200 million (£139 million) at the worldwide box office.
“Not only was it a surprise (to critics), but I remember a CNN headline saying 'Compton film debuts with no shootings at theaters'," she said as she collected her Spirit of Independence honour at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday (04Jun16), according to USA Today.
She continued: "It’s not just the fact that a (black) film can do well, it’s the fact that there’s a community around it, that there’s conversation around it, that a film can push a national moment forward, can be a piece of art. All of the things that surround films of colour seem to be a surprise. And really, it’s just selective amnesia because it’s not like it hasn’t happened before, that it doesn’t continue to happen. But I think it’s part of making films within a patriarchy, which is what we do."
Ava is the first black women in history to have picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture - for Selma - but she acknowledged there have been many minority filmmakers before her, such as French feminist director Agnes Varda and African-American director Julie Dash, who have not received a great amount of recognition for their groundbreaking contributions to the movie industry.
Despite this, she has great hopes for a more diverse future for Hollywood, with minority directors picking up many big budget films, funded by major studios. Ava is hard at work on A Wrinkle in Time for Disney, while other minority filmmakers such as Ryan Coogler and Rick Famuyiwa have taken charge of comic book blockbusters Black Panther and The Flash, respectively.
"You’re starting to get into a space where we get to see something we have not seen, which are black filmmakers with a hearty amount of resources," she noted. “Isn’t that exciting? We’ve never seen it! What is it even going to look like?”