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Ava DuVernay Talks Changing The Narrative Around Police And "Fearing Less"

Ava DuVernay On Changing The Narrative Around Police And The Power Of "Fearing Less"
June 17, 2020 - 21:27 / Hayley Paskevich

Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay recently talked about the relevancy of her work amidst the Black Lives Matter movement. Here's what the filmmaker hopes to do moving forward!

Ava DuVernay says that she's glad that people have been seeking out her work after wanting to become more informed about systemic racism! In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight's Kevin Frazier, DuVernay talked about the societal impact the Black Lives Matter movement has had. "I never imagined we’d be in this place, but [feel] so blessed and fortunate to be able to contribute to the conversation," she said.

As Entertainment Tonight mentions, DuVernay's Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, which places focus on "the racial bias suppression and criminalization of black people," saw a whopping 4,665 percent increase in viewership over the past three weeks. "A lot of people have sought it out,” DuVernay said of the film. "That’s what it’s there for: to teach, to share." 

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A production still from Netflix' When They See Us

DuVernay "really pleased" people are finding When They See Us 

DuVernay's films 13th and Selma were both recently made available for online streaming following the protests after the killing of George Floyd. As well, her Emmy-winning Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, has recently garnered attention once again.

When They See Us "serves [as] a snapshot of the destruction that these systems actually have on real people," as DuVernay explains, and it's featured in the streaming platform's collection of content in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. "I’m really pleased that people are finding it again,” DuVernay said to Entertainment Tonight about the show.

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Ava DuVernay speaks onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards.

DuVernay created fund to reshape stories about police violence 

DuVernay talked about how that she wants to be able to use her platform to affect change in a meaningful way, which is what led her to create LEAP— the Law Enforcement Accountability Project. As Entertainment Tonight says, the fund was launched in June and aims to reshape storytelling surrounding police violence across all forms of media "in order to empower activists to change the narrative." 

"LEAP is really what saved me in this time of darkness and trauma and rage and grief that so many of us are feeling," DuVernay said, saying how "sitting in those feelings was not healthy for me. Trying to do something about it and act was."

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Ava DuVernay arrives for the 72nd Annual Directors Guild of America Awards on January 25, 2020.

DuVernay addresses issue of a "national blind spot" with police

DuVernay then brought up something she's noticed to be a critical issue. "A lot of what we’re seeing now is this national blind spot: the fact that we have not been holding police officers who are not doing their work correctly, to task; we've not been holding them accountable," she explained to Entertainment Tonight.

"The police unions don’t hold them accountable, police departments don’t, and the courts don’t. There’s overwhelming statistical evidence that this is fact. Yet, we know that there are challenges on the streets, we see people dying on camera, let alone people who are not caught on camera in these situations. So the idea of this is [to] turn our storytelling powers towards this issue..."

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"The idea is to say we will make sure that you don’t go unknown and unnamed," DuVernay continued. "The idea that we can rattle off the names right now of 30 black people who died at the hands of police. We know their names, we say their names. That we don’t know who killed them, that is a national blind spot."

This issue is exactly why DuVernay said she wants to encourage the public to question the actions of law enforcement and discover the truth. "So that’s what LEAP will do,” she told Entertainment Tonight, "and anyone can join to help us amplify the projects and make the projects," which will be distributed through DuVernay's independent production company, ARRAY.

Ava DuVernay attends the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on February 6, 2020.

DuVernay says that "there's nothing like the power of the people"

DuVernay went on to talk about how LEAP has become a collective "of so many gorgeous artists and executives," creating a platform for women and people of colour to share their stories with the world. As Entertainment Tonight mentions, LEAP also has a non-profit arm focused on outreach and education called ARRAY 101, which DuVernay referred to as her "pride and joy."

She then explained that "fearing less" is what people need to do in order to bring about change. "There’s so much historical precedent for so many of our ancestors and great people who’ve done things that you read in the history books," DuVernay said, "and you're just like, ‘How did you summon up any courage to do this?’ And we are in such a different and a lot of ways better place now."

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"To be fearful of doing [what’s] right, I think, is what has a lot of people in the situation that we’re in now, where we’re afraid to speak when we see wrong being done; we’re afraid to hold power accountable," she continued. "You become less afraid when there’s more people doing it."

"I think that's a lot of what we’re seeing in this moment: millions of people saying no. So there’s nothing like the power of the people. I believe the people can do anything," DuVernay told Entertainment Tonight. "So the idea for this is, ‘Hey, help me not be afraid. Stand with me as we do this work.’ The more people stand with us, you know, the more powerful we can be."