This year, the LA Film Festival (LAFF) will honor filmmakers Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station).

DuVernay and Array Releasing (Array), an independent distribution company launched by DuVernay, will receive the festival’s annual Spirit of Independence Award, which honors those who advance the cause of independent film and champion creative freedom, and Coogler will serve as LAFF’s 2016 Guest Director.

“We can’t imagine a more fitting recipient of the Spirit of Independence Award than Ava DuVernay and her distribution company Array Releasing.  In addition to being a brilliant filmmaker, Ava is a passionate, forward-thinking distributor, helping unique and diverse voices find their audiences. Array bought Takeshi Fukunaga’s Out of My Hand at last year’s festival, a film that we celebrated at this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards.” – Josh Welsh, Film Independent President

Array has generated headlines around the world for being a leader in the relentless push to change systemic problems pertaining to race, gender, and inclusion within the Hollywood distribution landscape.

“Right now, there is a fundamental disrespect inherent in the distribution and amplification of films. There is a cinema segregation in how films are seen and not seen. What we’re saying is, we’re not going to depend on those things anymore.” – Ava DuVernay

Initially, Array was launched by DuVernay in 2010 under the name African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).  In keeping the focus on innovation and inclusion, in 2015 the company re-branded itself as Array and expanded its focus to release and champion films by black filmmakers from the African diaspora, as well as women and other filmmakers of color.  Since its inception in 2010, DuVernay and her team at Array have committed themselves wholeheartedly to finding ways to expose films by people of color and women to audiences across the country.

In the past, the Spirit of Independence Award has been awarded to Don Cheadle, George Clooney, David O. Russell, Tom Bernard, Michael Barker,  Charlize Theron, and more over the past few years.

As the LAFF Guest Director, Coogler will attend the 15th annual Filmmaker Retreat.  According to The Wrap, The Filmmaker Retreat brings together all the feature directors in this year’s Festival along with seasoned filmmakers and Film Independent Board Members who attend as honored artists. The Filmmaker Retreat is an opportunity to build community among the Festival’s filmmakers before the Festival kicks off on June 1st. 

Congratulations to Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler!