As America prepares for an unpredictable new presidential era, Ava DuVernay is preparing to resist. The director (Selma, Queen Sugar) has a history of intertwining art and activism, two interests that perfectly coalesce in her latest project: a documentary titled 13th.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, DuVernay talks about the responses she’s gotten to the film, her approach to opposing Trump’s “diseased” mind set, and her plans for Inauguration Day (which might involve some good trouble).
Have you heard from any surprising voices, or people whose opinions about criminal reform have changed because of the film?
I’ve heard from people whose opinions have just completely changed—an Uber driver who was from an Asian country who said that he voted for Trump because he wanted to make sure that he could keep his money, that he worked hard for his money, and that when he looked at the candidates, there was one candidate that was promising him that he’d be able to keep his money . . . and it wasn’t until he saw the 13th afterward that he was able to give context to some of the rhetoric that Trump was spouting. And that he regretted his vote. He just didn’t know about it.
That kind of thing is heartening and it is positive, but more often than not it’s been from really well-meaning—to be honest—white people who didn’t have a firm grasp on the full legacy of criminalization and didn’t understand the different parts that have played into current moments. And really embracing that from a place of, you know, discovery, which I think is positive. And I think the film also plays on another level for folks that have experienced it and do know it. I’ve heard from a number of formerly incarcerated people, currently incarcerated people, just a lot of people in general who’ve been touched by the criminal-justice system who said there’s a truth in this.
Stocks rose for the private prison industry after Trump’s election. Are you afraid of things moving backwards?
It’s a different era of ineptitude and audacity and misogyny and ignorance that we haven’t experienced, I don’t think. But it’s not as if we haven’t been in times before where we have presidents who’ve gone in and done damage to the very freedoms that forward-thinking people have fought for. It’s not as if we’ve not stood on the edge of a time like this before. This is super-sized, like times 10. But I also believe there will be some new thoughts, some new unity, some new art, some new hope and joy that comes out of it from people who are like-minded, gathering together to resist the current administration. . . . It’s happening, so the question is: Now what? My answer is not, “Well, give him a chance, see how it goes.” My answer is not, “Let’s just support and wait ’til another four years goes by.” My answer is to resist.
Do you have a plan for Inauguration Day? Are you interested in protesting, or are you going to observe?
No, I’ll be taking part in a public expression of dissent on that day.
Can you say anything more?
[Laughs] I can’t say it just yet! But yes, and not just on that day, but throughout the month. There are a couple different things planned.
“The law extended insurance to 20 million Americans and prevented denial of pre-existing conditions.” Shame on them. https://t.co/6JIAOtQy4J
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 12, 2017