In a new feature for The Hollywood Reporter, director Ava DuVernay weighed in on the film-industry debate surrounding Netflix’s legitimacy as a film distributor. She explained it’s important to recognize great movies and shows on Netflix because the platform lets under-served communities access quality programming.
She told THR: “Do audiences in Compton count? Do audiences in Selma count? Because I can’t show Straight Outta Compton in Compton, and I can’t show Selma in Selma because there are no movie theaters. Now you have a platform that’s saying, ‘We will make sure that audiences—not only in this country, but in 190 countries—for the price of a hamburger can see your movie, your TV show, your whatever.’ For there to be any debate where that is valid is, to me, kind of self-preserving. It’s unfortunate because while some people are self-preserving, other people are being excluded, both from the making of the piece and the enjoyment of the piece.”
Netflix’s critics have attempted to create a boundary between the streaming platform and more traditional theater-focused film distributors like Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox. DuVernay argues this criticism is rooted in privilege. Audiences in disadvantaged communities might rely on Netflix as a low-cost alternative to seeing movies in theaters or paying for cable.
DuVernay is returning to Netflix at the end of this month for her miniseries When They See Us about the Central Park Five. She’s already partnered with the service for her Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary 13th.
Justice issues and representation have been a huge emphasis of DuVernay’s career. Her production company is made up of a majority of people of color and women. She aligns herself closely with other filmmakers and producers of color in the industry, too, like Ryan Coogler, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo.
Jharrel Jerome, who plays Korey Wise in When They See Us, told THR about DuVernay: “We look up to Ava as someone who is telling a story that we can’t tell. We don’t have the means to yell and scream, and try to get out all of our anger, our resentment towards what we’re going through. But we can sit down and we can watch two hours of a project that Ava put together and say, ‘Yes, OK, I understand. We are at a good place, and we will keep fighting, and we will keep moving forward.’”