Earlier this week, “Middle of Nowhere” director and African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement founder Ava DuVernay was the keynote speaker at the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. DuVernay, who won the U.S. dramatic directing award at last year’s Sundance, gave brief remarks before viewing the work of the workshop’s up-and-coming participants. Honored this year were Shaz Bennett, Catherine Dent, Antoneta Kastrati, Lauren Ludwig, Stephanie Martin, Juliana Penaradna-Loftus, Lisanne Sartor and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.
Below are DuVernay’s remarks to her fellow women directors:
I’m using one of my 5
allotted minutes to show you something that helps me. Some days I watch and I
laugh. Some days I watch and I get a little misty. Depends on the day.
So I thought to
myself, why not me? Why not us?
The question is fundamentally
flawed in that it shouldn’t be a viable question in the first place. It speaks
to exclusion and heirachy and challenges.
But it also speaks to
defiance, change and a bit of swagger. Because at the point that you ask
yourself the question – Why Not Me? – you’re past dreaming and hoping and
wishing it was you. At the point you ask that question, you’re ready to do
something. You’re ready to answer. You’re ready to direct.
So why not us?
In answering, its
vital to remember that we aren’t alone. That for whatever drama we encounter,
you’re a part of a sisterhood of bad-ass women who make movies. A small, but
powerful sorority with deep roots and legacy. And I’ve found the moments when I
tap into this camaraderie to be some of my most joy-filled moments as a
So when you’re down on
the cold hard floor and somebody’s got their foot propped on your back and you
feel like that bear skinned rug. Be the bear. Get up and answer the question:
Why Not Me?
The answer is very
hard and very simple.
The answer is our work.
We answer with our
I look forward to
seeing yours tonight and beyond. Congratulations.