This platform has been covering the moves of the OWN original series, Queen Sugar, helmed by director Ava DuVernay. Queen Sugar marks DuVernay’s television series directorial debut, and she will be working alongside an all-female directorial team. Many of the women on the all-female directorial team are women of color who have made a great impact on the independent film community.
“We are hiring an all women directorial team. A lot of women that we know from the black independent space, that I won’t announce yet, but it’s an exciting time to invite women into the show and really try to tell the story of this family of really strong women who do an amazing thing in St. Josephine, Louisiana…..so I’m really excited about it.” – Ava DuVernay
These brilliantly creative women have poured their souls into screenplays and spent years trying to get financial backing to bring the stories to life. Finally, things come together, they receive funding, and their films do extraordinarily well on the film festival circuit and in major theaters, but then what? Despite spending years to get a film made that eventually goes on to win countless awards across the country, these great artists aren’t exactly being flooded with numerous opportunities from Hollywood to direct episodic television or studio films. Rather than sit back and wait for Hollywood to come to them, these women return to the trenches and push forward independently on the next project without Hollywood’s funding, acknowledgment, and/or recognition. This is the story of many women of color who are filmmakers working in the entertainment industry.
The near-absence of these pioneering women in Hollywood hints at much deeper institutional problems in the television and film industry. Despite the fact that Hollywood is thought to be a liberal environment welcoming creative differences, statistics have proven that a patriarchal culture continues to dominate this industry. This past February, The Annenberg Report on Diversity assessed 407 of the directors who premiered major movies and shows during 2014-2015. Only 53 were people of color, and only two, Amma Asante and Ava DuVernay, were black women. Despite these statistics, DuVernay is taking the reins and leading the way to make sure that Hollywood reflects the world that we live in.
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DuVernay has invited Victoria Mahoney, Neema Barnette, Tina Mabry, and many more women to share their talent and expertise on the Queen Sugar series. The most recent addition to the team is filmmaker Tanya Hamilton whose politically conscious films have greatly impacted audiences across the country.
Hamilton graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where she studied painting. Eventually, Hamilton switched her focus from painting to filmmaking at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and then went on to attend Columbia University. Her first short was the critically acclaimed film The Killers, and she went on to write the award winning film Night Catches Us, which took a little over ten years to get made. Starring Anthonly Macki and Kerry Washington, this film revolves around an ex-Black Panther’s return to Philadelphia for the funeral of his father in the late 1970’s where he must confront his complicated past as a member of the Black Panther movement. This critically acclaimed film won the award for Best American Film at Sundance Film Festival, and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, four Image Awards, a Gotham Award, and a Chlotrudis Award. In addition to Night Catches Us, Hamilton directed an episode of Split Screen, a magazine-format show featuring diversity among American independent filmmakers. Hamilton constantly engages audiences with socially and politically compelling content about people of color, and we are looking forward to the magic that she will bring to Queen Sugar.
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DuVernay is bringing Queen Sugar to life alongside Oprah, her team of female directors, and all-inclusive crew members. The show will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). An air date has not been released yet; however, we couldn’t be more excited for what lies ahead as this amazing group of women continues to inspire all by breaking barriers, making history, and showing Hollywood how things can be done.