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The Time Has Come

By Mary Daily

Published Mar 9, 2018 10:30 AM

Director Ava DuVernay saw herself in the heroine of A Wrinkle In Time.


On the set of A Wrinkle In Time, director Ava DuVernay with Oprah Winfrey. Photos by Atsushi Nishijima.

In the early 1990s, when Ava DuVernay was a UCLA student majoring in English and African-American studies, she envied the film students she saw on campus. She loved movies but thought she could never become a filmmaker.

Fast forward to today, and the Long Beach native, who grew up in Lynwood, is the first African-American female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She received the nomination for Selma, which in 2015 went on to garner Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Song. Her 2016 film 13th received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Selma had special meaning for DuVernay. Her father, who grew up in Alabama, witnessed the Selma to Montgomery marches as a child. Her latest film, A Wrinkle in Time (released on March 9), also has links to her father.

When an agent first called DuVernay about making Wrinkle — a classic science fantasy story told through the eyes of 13-year-old Meg Murry — the director wasn’t interested. But after she was contacted several more times, she decided she should at least read the book.


DuVernay on set with Storm Reid, above, and Deric McCabe, below.

“It hit me in my soul,” she says now. “I thought, ‘This is mine!’” Like Meg Murry's father, DuVernay’s father’s name was Murray — Murray Maye. In the book, Meg’s father disappears. And just before DuVernay began preproduction on Wrinkle, her own father died.

“The world cracked down the middle,” she wrote later in a preface to a special edition of the book, “and everything I knew was split wide open. ... To say I began the process of bringing Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved novel to life feeling much like … Meg Murry would be an understatement.

“Throughout making this film, I could refer to Mr. Murry only as ‘her father.’ I couldn’t say his name because it was my father’s name. Delving into Meg’s journey helped me with my own in ways that healed my broken heart.”

In directing the film, DuVernay says she “tried very hard to capture the intention of the author. [The book] walks us through ... pain to a light within ourselves ... [forcing] us to connect to the spaces between the stars and to the best parts of ourselves.”

With Wrinkle, DuVernay has broken through yet another ceiling. She has become the first African-American woman to direct a live-action film with a budget exceeding $100 million.

A Wrinkle in Time stars Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures.