Academy Dialogues Exclusive Clip: Ava DuVernay Has a Rare Discussion About Craft With Julie Dash and Euzhan Palcy

Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence” (2020)
Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence” (2020)
Photo: Courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

If you’ve been keeping up with our ongoing coverage so far, you may know that The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been releasing regular panel sessions called Academy Dialogues as part of its equity and inclusion initiative Academy Aperture 2025.

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Next up, we have an all-Black female filmmaker panel titled Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence.”

Here’s the breakdown of the latest session:

Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence”
Does Hollywood have a comfort zone when it comes to culture? This discussion, featuring Oscar-nominated filmmaker, founder of ARRAY and Academy governor Ava DuVernay (Selma) and filmmakers Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) and Euzhan Palcy (Sugar Cane Alley), will examine whether there is an objective form of measurement in the arts and how the Hollywood system can broaden its aperture to appreciate storytelling from the worldviews of different ethnic and racial communities.

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Yeah, this is a pretty big damn deal. Here we have three filmmakers who have made history and contributed to the culture in their own ways, through their talent and persistence.

We have Dash, who is the first African American woman to direct a feature film with a general theatrical release in the U.S. (Daughters of the Dust). Then, there’s Palcy, the first Black woman director of a film produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM’s A Dry White Season) and the only woman to direct a film starring Marlon Brando (she managed to bring him back to the screen after a nine-year break). Lastly, there’s DuVernay, who became the first Black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director (Selma), as well as the first Black female director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In an exclusive clip provided to The Root, DuVernay reiterates the ongoing conversation on how female filmmakers—particularly Black female filmmakers—aren’t asked about craft as much as their white male counterparts. It’s almost like they don’t take Black women filmmakers as seriously, huh? As a rule, I enjoy talking craft with fellow filmmakers all the time, so when I first noticed there was a lack of discussion on this vital topic, I made a point to always throw in at least one question about craft when interviewing a Black female filmmaker.

In the above clip, DuVernay prompted the two women to talk about how they pull emotion from their talent, including a particularly standout moment when Palcy inspired actor Zakes Mokae (who portrayed Stanley in A Dry White Season) to portray a highly emotional scene in an effective way.

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Further, DuVernay not only asks the rare question of craft to these iconic filmmakers but touches on an even rarer subject of post-production, asking, “What’s your favorite part of post?”

For both ladies, it’s the whole process of editing.

“That’s where the film is made,” Dash muses. “The editing is a continuation of directing. You start carving out scenes to make them even better.”

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Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence” premieres today (Oct. 22) at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET on The Academy’s YouTube channel.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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