Award-winning film-maker and activist Ava DuVernay was awarded the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Annually, this is an honor bestowed to an individual who impacts the society at large through their work. Lilian Gish, who passed in 1993, described the ideal deserving individual in her will saying, “It is my desire that the prize be awarded to a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” DuVernay, who has consistently used her platform to amplify the voices of the unheard, the work of women and people of color; rightfully was selected.
The official release states:
“The Gish Prize Trust today announced that writer, producer, director, and social justice activist Ava DuVernay has been selected to receive the 27th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of her ongoing achievements in inspiring change through the power of film and television. She is the fourth filmmaker (after Ingmar Bergman, Robert Redford, and Spike Lee) to receive the Prize, established in 1994 through the will of legendary screen and stage actress Lillian Gish, known as the First Lady of Cinema. One of the most prestigious honors given to artists in the United States, the Gish Prize also bears one of the largest cash awards, currently valued at approximately $250,000.”
DuVernay said of the honor, “When I was notified about the lovely prize, I asked to read Ms. Gish’s actual words regarding this gift as drafted in her will. She said the prize was to go to an artist who contributes to our understanding of ‘the beauty of life.’ What a notion. With her description, my own view of what I do has shifted slightly more toward embracing the beauty around me and welcoming it at every turn. This is one of those moments, and I am grateful.”
DuVernay’s accolades include winning a Peabody, Emmy, BAFTA, and Oscar awards. She directed Selma, which won an Oscar. She directed the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th and the Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time. She directed, wrote, and produced the series When They See Us, an Emmy Award winning limited series that covered the Central Park Five tragedy.
Jamie Bennett, The Gish Prize selection committee chair, said, “Ava DuVernay is an extraordinary filmmaker whose body of work as a writer, producer, director, distributor, and mentor perfectly embodies the outstanding achievements that the Gish Prize celebrates. As a committee, we went into the selection process thinking that we had been given an impossible task. Reflecting back, however, our choice was inevitable: Ms. DuVernay was exactly the artist to honor. We are as grateful for all she has already given the world, as we are excited by all she has yet to do.”
DuVernay was selected from a pool of 60 exceptional finalists. Congratulations to her. The honor is well-deserved.