February 15, 2017 / 12:20 AM / 6 months ago

'13th' director DuVernay says enough of 'firsts' for black women

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ava DuVernay may be the first black female director to be Oscar-nominated for a documentary, but it's not something she is especially happy about.

Like her film, "13th," which explores the far-reaching repercussions of slavery in the United States today, DuVernay says the Oscar nomination merely demonstrates how little progress has been made.

"It's bittersweet because I know I'm not the first black woman deserving of these things," DuVernay, 44, told Reuters Television.

"I hope that it is also really clear that we are way behind on where we should be... and that women and people of color don't intend for it to be another 100 years for the second and the third."

Director and honoree Ava DuVernay poses at Variety's Power of Women Luncheon in Beverly Hills, California U.S., October 14, 2016.Mario Anzuoni

"13th" argues that although it has been 150 years since slavery was officially abolished in the United States, it is still alive in the form of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects black people.

The documentary notes that the U.S. prison population rose from 357,000 in 1970 to 2.3 million in 2014. While black men account for some 6.6 percent of the U.S. population, they currently make up 40.2 percent of the prison population.

"13th" has already won a British BAFTA award and a slew of critics prizes, making it a front-runner for the best documentary Oscar at the Feb. 26 ceremony.

DuVernay is currently celebrating another first. She is directing the movie version of the children's classic book "A Wrinkle in Time," which marks the first time a black woman in Hollywood has commanded a $100 million movie budget.

"Now that now that some of these things have been broken that they need to be shattered and we need to move forward in a more robust inclusive way," she said.

Reporting by Reuters Television

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