Ava DuVernay, the first African-American in Venice, proposes in ‘Origin’ a drama as ambitious as it is irregular about the origin of injustice (***)

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Ava DuVernay He goes up to the stage at the press conferences and says thanks for a question about his film. She gives it from her heart. She doesn’t get excited, but almost. And the reason for so much emotion is double and even triple. First, to see where no one before like her has been. She is, in effect, the first black American woman selected in the official section in the 80 years of the Venice Mostra. It makes you want to write the same sentence again. Second, because the question does not deal with her status as her woman or as her black. “It is not common for someone to be interested in my work”, comment. Now she laughs. And third, that there is a third reason, because he is where he is, answering questions at the Mostra, against the opinion of everyone. “We black directors are told not to show up at festivals because our stories don’t matter,” she says. Well, Ava DuVernay has arrived. “Now I just hope the door is still open,” she adds.

The film that now endorses in Venice and before the world the director of ‘Selma‘ (2014) is perhaps, of all those submitted to competition, the one that wants the most things and from above. What you want, by force and always, good. Ambition should be the subtitle of ‘Origin‘. The story of the writer and Pulitzer Prize winner is told Isabel Wilkerson. In reality, it is not so much her entire life as her period that the author spent working on what is her greatest work: ‘Breed. The origin of what divides us’. The mechanism (or device) of the tape is complex. The idea is to make the research and writing process coincide with personal life and, most importantly, with the attentive illustration of the text’s own content. ‘Origin‘ is, if you will, ‘thriller‘ procedural, ‘biopic‘ melodramatic and conscientious essay and, of course, committed. Everything at once. No one can blame DuVernay for his passion, his devotion and his most elemental desire. So far good.

One more layer could be added to the film. It is not difficult to draw parallels between Wilkerson’s life and that of DuVernay herself. What is being talked about, let us not forget, is the origin of racism. The thesis of both the book and the tape itself is that before what we understand as racial prejudices there is the stigmatization of the poor (the outcasts in India) or the group that wants to be eradicated from society (the Jews in World War II). World). That is, the brand of the breed that announces the title. A piece of information: especially relevant in ‘Origin‘ is the discussion rescued from the archives within the German Nazi party in which the hierarchs of the brown shirt imagined the possibility of applying the same discrimination to the Jews of their country with the blacks that they “envy” of the United States. To continue with the reasoning, the fact described in the first paragraph adds to the wound of the film. DuVernay has been touched by the double discrimination that always accompanies the fact of being whatever and, in addition, a woman. It is so. Or so it has been for the last 80 years in Venice.

As we said, the film strives at all times to comply with the axiom that the universal is particular and the political is personal. And in this way, she navigates from the most intimate misfortune (the death of her husband, mother and friend) to the most excessive catastrophe (the Holocaust); from the most familiar corner of an old house that is flooded (a metaphor for neglected collective memory) to the other side of the most savage injustice on the planet (India); from the most everyday, emotional and close to cinema cinema turned into a very sad ‘PowerPoint‘. It doesn’t always work and, as in great attempts, when ‘Origin‘ Wrong does it big. But with everything dazzles and even falls in love with the will to reach all sides and to do it with free lung. There are drowning yes, but this art, like all, is for the daring.

The result is a film that is as risky, profound, and free from prejudice as it is obviously irregular and, at times, chaotic. But what difference does it make? It has been 80 years of waiting and DuVernay was clear that he had to try big. Now all that remains is for the achievement to be normalized, for the audacity of the anomaly to be prohibited and for the doors to remain open, as the director says.

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