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NYT critic coins “DuVernay test” for racial diversity in films, in honor of Ava DuVernay

By WITW Staff on February 1, 2016

“The Birth of a Nation” was the big winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The movie about the Nat Turner slave revolt in Virginia in 1831 took home both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award and is being sold to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million. In a piece recapping the festival and discussing the importance of this movie at a moment when the debate about diversity in Hollywood is more acute than ever, New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis argues that “movies like ‘The Birth of a Nation’ are helping to write the next chapter of American cinema.” To capture this next chapter, Dargis created a test  “in honor of the director and Sundance alumna Ava DuVernay,” which runs parallel to the famous “Bechdel test” for movies — when a film features a scene where at least two women discuss something other than a man. To pass the DuVernay test, a film needs to have “African-Americans and other minorities [who] have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories.” The “Selma” director herself is totally on board with the idea, tweeting:  “Wow. Floored. What a lovely cinematic idea to embrace. What a thrill to be associated with it. Absolutely wonderful.”  DuVernay is currently working with Oprah Winfrey on a new television show based on the book Queen Sugar, for which she hired an an all-female directorial team, many of them who’ve earned their stripes in African-American independent film.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


Ava DuVernay hires all-female directorial team for “Queen Sugar” TV show