Ava DuVernay has just passed a historic milestone: As the director of the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time, she just became the first black woman ever to helm a live-action movie with a production budget over $100 million.
Due out in 2017, the Disney-produced film adapts Madeleine L'Engle's popular sci-fi novel about a young girl named Meg whose scientist father goes missing while working on a secret project involving a tesseract. Oprah Winfrey will star as Mrs. Which, one of three women who help Meg travel through space and time.
According to Women and Hollywood, DuVernay is only the third woman to direct a live-action film with this kind of investment. That's not surprising, since directors in the film industry are mostly white men. According to recent research, women only represent 3.4 percent of all film directors. Of the women who've worked with production budgets of this size, there's Kathryn Bigelow with 2002's K-19: The Widowmaker and Patty Jenkins, with next year's Wonder Woman.
The study also looked at the lack of racially diverse representation amongst directors. Out of 407 directors, there were only two black women in the group; DuVernay was one of them.
Gil Robertson, co-founder and president of the African American Film Critics Association, tells Broadly that historically, opportunities for black women in film have been limited, mostly because they weren't invited into the industry. With this move, he says, Disney is showing the world how much confidence they have in DuVernay.
"$100 million is equivalent to the gross national product for some countries," he says. "She's certainly demonstrated with her work that she's not only a creative genius, but is the right type of person to entrust that type of investment to."
DuVernay's already proved herself to be a prodigious talent with her work on the 2014 film Selma, for which she became the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award and the first to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
Last night, as media picked up the news, the director tweeted, "Not the first capable of doing so. Not by a long shot. Thanks to @DisneyStudios for breaking this glass with me."