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The NAACP Image Awards Nominations Ignore Ava DuVernay

The NAACP Image Awards Nominations Ignore Ava DuVernay

Dear Nominators of the NAACP Image Awards:

With all due respect, what the fuck were you thinking?

It’s 6am here on the east coast and I am finally getting to read the nominations for the 44th NAACP Image Awards and my jaw is on the ground at how the work of Ava DuVernay was overlooked by this group.  How is it possible that this film could have received NO nominations except in the acting categories.  I am flabbergasted.  It’s not that it would be a stretch to nominate this film.  That a woman’s work is “not good enough” or whatever other crap committees use to justify ignoring women creatives.  This film and this writer/director has been generating accolades since the film premiered last January in Sundance when Ava became the first Afircan American woman to win best director.  The film has garnered other year end accolades including nominations from the Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. 

Here’s what the chair of the NAACP Roslyn M. Brock says about the nominees:

We are proud to celebrate the artists and activists who use their craft to share positive images of our culture.  The artistic community is an important ally for social justice, and the NAACP Image Awards provides an excellent venue to recognize those who make a difference through art and activism.

Are they ignoring Ava because she made a movie about a woman whose husband is in prison and the prison industrial complex figures so heavily in the story.  Is it because the film is about the reality of a woman’s life and not enough of a “positive image.”  And by the way that’s a frickin loaded quote.  Why would you only be awarding people who use their craft to share positive images?  The job of artists is not only to show positive images, it is their job to reflect how they see the culture. 

By ignoring the contribution of Ava DuVernay the NAACP Image Awards has lost the opportunity to embrace one of their own, an African American woman who has fought against the odds to make a successful film about an African American woman.  A woman, not a girl (no offense to Beasts of the Southern Wild but see my story earlier this week of why we need more adult heroines.)  They missed an opportunity to support and nuture and embrace an African American moviemaker who will keep making movies about the African American female experience.   One that is sorely needed in the movies.

They should be ashamed of themselves for nominating Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds for Best Motion Picture  (which is at 32% on rotten tomatoes) over Middle of Nowhere which is at 85% fresh.  And then to add insult to injury, to leave it out of the Outstanding Independent Motion Picture while including Red Tails which cost $59 million to make (according to box office mojo) again as well as Beasts of the Southern Wild is shameful.  There is no directing category so I can’t lambast them for leaving Ava off that, but I can lambast them for including a Lifetime movie, yes a  Lifetime movie! for best writing in the Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture – (Theatrical or Television) and a white English guy Ol Parker for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (why is that even eligible?)

I am happy that the committee recognized three actors from this film, but let’s remember that these fine actors did not direct themselves and those nominations were in some way safe since all those actors have been nominated before.

Why I am so mad is that we have so few African American female directors.  I want to acknowledge Neema Barnette whose film Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day was nominated for best independent film.  But I still don’t understand how these group of people missed this opportunity to validate the presence of this important female voice.

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Sasha Stone has a great post too also on this discussing Bigelow and DuVernay at Good on you Melissa for this post. I don't follow this awards show and have never seen it so wasn't aware. But you and Sasha brought it to my attention. I have seen Middle of Nowhere after reaing Manohla Dargis' effusive review and found it astounding in it's portrayal of a woman who I never knew before but cared deeply for by the time the credits rolled. Seems like the kind of thing the association of the advancement of colored people would be celebrating just like the Spirit Awards have if not moreso. That film is advancement if I've ever seen one. For women and for African-American women most certainly.

Scott Mendelson

I agree on principle, but the fact that Red Tails cost $59 million doesn't make it less of a true independent film. George Lucas funded that one completely out of his own pocket, hence (like the Star Wars prequels) it is a true independent film.

Joe Doughrity

Thank you Ms. Silverstein for this article spotlighting this glaring omission. The NAACP has just shown how irrelevant their awards show is. Ms. DuVernay's film is wonderful and chock full of great performances. It's a shame that they overlooked one of the year's true gems.


One has to realize that not everyone is going to universally praise a film no matter how much hype it's been getting. Film is subjective. The fact that the NAACP only nominated Middle of Nowhere in only two categories doesn't mean that the NAACP should be slammed to death. They just weren't feeling the film like others have, for whatever reason. Everyone has an opinion about a film. That's just how it is. There are some negative reviews of Middle of Nowhere on Rotten Tomatoes just like any other film on the site. I've read several. Regardless,
I bet everyone will still watch the show when it's broadcast since it's the highest profile African-American award show on mainstream television. The fact that this discussion is taking place just brings more attention to the show. Don't think the NAACP doesn't know that.


A travesty. Many of us in the community are up in arms. I loved Middle of Nowhere and what Ms. Duverney stands for and don't understand this deliberate slap in the face. Perhaps this is the straw that will break the seediness of this awards wide open and finally force it to clean itself up. Nate Parker I agree is also blatantly missing as well as Lorraine Touissant blistering performance as the mother in Middle of Nowhere. Do they even watch the movies or just pick friends and those who pay for ads in the booklet? NAACP supports Tarantino and Django but not Duverney and Middle of Nowhe. They support the young white Ivy Leaguer who made Beasts of the Outhern Wild, but not Duverney's vision of black women. They give screenplay to Best Exotic Marigold and NOT Duverney who is on all kinds of Oscar pick lists for her screenplay. They are insane. they have been caught.


Thank you for this post, Melissa, and for advocating for diversity and quality storytelling over popular media machine picks.


Let's put it out there. The snub of DuVernay was personal (apparently she's rubbed many people the wrong way) but this whole Image Awards gala is both personal and political. They have become a joke. I never even watch it since it has nothing to do with quality or supporting the work of excellent minorities often overlooked in the mainstream. Nate Parker did fines work in Arbitrage–stole the film from Gere imho. Where's he?

Someone please get an interview with someone from the nominating committee.


AMEN, Melissa!!! Thank you for eloquently putting to print what so many people are feeling right now about the NAACP noms.

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