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Inaugural Shadow And Act Annual Black Cinema Toasts! 2011 Honorees #1 – Ava DuVernay & AFFRM

Inaugural Shadow And Act Annual Black Cinema Toasts! 2011 Honorees #1 - Ava DuVernay & AFFRM

Starting today, and each WEEK day for the rest of the year, I’ll highlight, or, as I prefer, propose toasts to all the brave, passionate black men, women and institutions in this ruthless, monocratic industry we cover here on S&A, who were, as the late Steve Jobs put it in that famous ad for Apple, the crazy ones.

Appropriating the quote from the commercial for my own use: Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… 

Yes, those people :)

And you simply cannot have a conversation about the state of what we call *black cinema* in 2011 without including one Ms Ava DuVernay and AFFRM in that discussion. I’m sure you’ve heard of both by now, regardless of how you feel about either, almost a year after the launch of the African American Film Festival Release Movement, otherwise known as AFFRM – a groundbreaking, grassroots effort to get black films in theaters, in front of audiences that may otherwise never see these films; an initiative spearheaded by Ava, in collaboration with several of the nation’s top black film festivals (the inaugural group of backers included the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the ReelBlack Film Series in Philadelphia, the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle). 

AFFRM is just the kind of progressive initiative that we’ve long championed here on Shadow And Act since the site was created in April 2009, and we’ve continued to be strong supporters of the organization’s cause, because it’s an important one! Its success is our success.

Of course, the movement and the person most associated with it, have both had their detractors; that’s to be expected. But the respect that’s been afforded both, trumps any resistance to the movement. The work speaks for itself, to use the old cliche. 

In a time when discussions about the weakened state of black cinema are often distressingly repetitious, with lots of finger-pointing, and usually centered around the question of what to do to bring about change, here’s someone who moved the conversation beyond just having the conversation, and actually DID something. A rarity, in my not-so humble opinion, and she, as well as the film festival heads who bought into her solution, and the myriad of men and women who work behind the scenes, helping to keep the ship afloat, should be toasted for their efforts.

A risk was taken by all involved; and as is the case with all risk, reward isn’t always certain, and there is almost always someone waiting to watch you fail. But at least, you took the risk.

And sometimes risk IS rewarded; occasionally, the reward is far beyond what those who took the risk expected; and I (and I’m sure countless others) certainly hope the movement continues to grow, as more of us become increasingly aware of and support AFFRM, and that it’s able to position itself as a veritable challenge to the industry status quo.

Cheers to Ava DuVernay and AFFRM, and prosperity!

I’ll be back on Monday morning for the second Shadow And Act 2011 toast proposal. Hmm… I wonder who’s next… :)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that AFFRM’s second release, Kinyarwanda, opens in Denver, Colorado today, at the Denver Film Society on East Colfax. It’ll be there for 1 week, through next week Thursday, so here’s your chance to see it.

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I'm so proud.

Teresa Weir McGee

Ava is a force with a fist of light to follow! Keep shining.


Wow, wow, wow. Thanks to Tambay and to the kind commenters and generous friends below. Really, so cool. I know I'm just one of many, many black filmlovers who embrace and celebrate the space that Shadow and Act has created for us. Thanks for that. And happy new year to everyone. 2012, here we come!

Joe Doughriy

Cheers to Ava and AFFRM! She understands not only great film production but also distribution. And she's always willing to help out her fellow filmmakers of color which is something we all need to foster in our community. Looking forward to hearing much more from her in 2012 beginning with Sundance!


What detractors? the woman (I don't want to say sister cause she belongs to all of people of color) has done the what few have only stated, and now it is a Place where I damn will be pushing my Latino films to she is a powerful presence, sometimes folk only see the point where you end up and never see the starting point, remember how MIRAMAX started very similar, and she will have so,so of Black film makers and folks who love cinema behind her.

Walk on water Lady -keep it going!!!!


Not only is she an amazing and powerful spirit, she's extremely intelligent, with an intense amount of humility. Ava certainly did not have to choose to saddle this movement, but she absolutely chose to share this wondrous journey with the world. She chose to provide a platform, a voice and a picturesque visual for all of us to support.

jackie in seattle

Here, here. Thank you Shadow and Act for a toast worth drinking. It is a pleasure and honor for Langston Hughes African American Film Festival to share and support Ava's dynamic lead and vision with AFFRM. Congratulations Ava on the amazing first year of film making and AFFRM. You have lead the way with boundless energy, talent, brains, hard work and alot of grace. This also includes you Tilane.


"In a time when discussions about the weakened state of black cinema are often distressingly repetitious, with lots of finger-pointing, and usually centered around the question of what to do to bring about change, here's someone who moved the conversation beyond just having the conversation, and actually DID something."

lil nut

the realest nigga in american cinema, period! take note!


Yes much deserved praise to Ms. DuVernay! Can't wait for her second film.

Andy Drew 2

Dearest Ava DuVernay May Your Light Forever Shine For The Whole Wide World To See…… Continued Blessings My Beautiful Friend And Sistah……. Kindest Regards, <3 Andy Drew 2




Proud AFFRM volunteer! Thank you, Ava! Keep coming to Chicago!


Sounds like we're worshiping St Ava up in here. Who is she again?

Tera DuVernay

My sister Ava DuVernay is amazing! Congrats Ava! Love you!


I salute you as well, Ava. You are creating opportunities for our voices to be heard, thank you! Audre Lorde said "There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt."…Ava, thank you for making "us" feel appreciated. Thank you for creating characters who embody everyday people. There comes a time when we must all stand for who and what we believe. Today you stand for us and I am proud to follow your lead.

Diane Brown

Perfect selection! Ava and AFFRM are deserving of much praise and accolades, with so many accomplishments in such a short time. Can't wait to see what's coming up in the future. Congrats to Ava and all of the great work she's doing. And also to her fabulous team!


Big thanks to Shadow & Act for kicking off their holiday toasts by paying homage to Ava DuVernay and AFFRM. Talk about a trailblazer who has followed her own dreams of making quality independent cinema and is paving the way for other filmmakers by creating opportunities for theatrical distribution of their content. Ava is fearless in her quest and humble in her journey. Urbanworld, in partnership with ImageNation in NYC, is honored to support her in this movement and the many other filmmakers who will reap the fruits of her labor. Thank you for your passion, your personal sacrifice, and your pursuit of excellence in all you endeavor to accomplish. Your team — Tilane, Spencer, Mercedes — are all cut from the same DVA tapestry and I thank them for joining you on this crusade! Wishing you continued success as you change the world we live in, the images we see, and the impact we have as a collective. You absolutely rock!

Matthew Cherry

When all is said and done you have to make sure that more is done than said and Ava Duvernay is a prime example of this. Cheers to Ava. An inspiration to us all. I wouldn't be a filmmaker if it weren't for her.


This is well-said. Glad to see Shadow and Act celebrate Miss Duvernay and her group. I like that part about round pegs in the square holes. Aren't all Black People round pegs in square holes when it comes to the Hollywood Industrial Complex? Shadow and Act should be celebrated too. You guys are making a difference too.

Jennifer A.

Yes. I stand in agreement with this toast and raise a glade to the chutzpah and the follow through. I haven't heard anyone speak ill of this woman and I am glad I have not. I feel weird writing this but I've watched her without knowing her for years in this business. I've seen her office, her car, her everything downsized over the last years while she has made her strides in film production. I blew it off at first but then it became something that was real and normal. The fact that her work in film as a content creator and advocate is becoming as concrete as her time as a publicist and marketing maven is because if who she is. She is real. If she is trying to help you, she is real. If she's not trying to help you, she is real. If she is asking you for help, she is real. A few months ago I ran into her and I asked what happened to her cute convertible. Later I realized how fatty that might have come off by me. Maybe it was fatty. She said very gracefully, "I didn't that. I'd rather make movies". And then she just chuckled. This is a good woman and a straight shooting person which we don't have enough of in this town. Yes. A toast to you Ava. Girl, you believe in your dreams and that makes me believe in mine. – Jenn

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