Yesterday evening awards were announced at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Taking the top prizes, the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award, was The Birth of a Nation, the directorial debut of actor Nate Parker about Nat Turner, an African-American slave who was the leader of a huge slave revolt in Virginia in the early 1800s. Recapping the film (which was bought for a ton of money!) and the festival in general, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis introduced a term that will soon be making its way into our vernacular.
In her piece, Dargis uses The Birth of Nation, a smart title in the way that it attempts to reappropriate the 1915 KKK propaganda film of the same name, to discuss a changing tide at the festival, where other picks like Morris From America and Kiki reveal a shift in the way black narratives are presented on screen. To shed light on this emphasis, Dargis took from the "Bechdel Test," a test given to a piece of media that can only pass if it features women talking about anything other than men, and introduced the "DuVernay Test."
Dargis takes the name from Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed director behind last year's Selma. DuVernay has been a longtime champion of black voices in film and television, and is no stranger to the Sundance crowd either. Middle of Nowhere, her second narrative feature, won her a directing award at Sundance back in 2012.
Anyway, Dargis explains that the DuVernay test is one "in which African-Americans and other minorities have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories."
DuVernay was totally onboard with the term and even tweeted about it.
Wow. Floored. What a lovely cinematic idea to embrace. What a thrill to be associated with it. Absolutely wonderful. https://t.co/zjoWBBIKVy— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) January 31, 2016
She's currently working with Oprah Winfrey, who appeared in Selma, on Queen Sugar, a drama starring True Blood standout Rutina Wesley.