Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY: The People’s Theater

Photo courtesy of Super Soul.

Photo courtesy of Super Soul.

Movies foster human connection in all walks of life, real or imaginary.

The stories we see create empathy and inspire action, all without you having to leave your seat. Filmmakers, who recognize and utilize their power for productivity, are not to be taken for granted.

One spearhead of this movement is director, producer, writer, marketer and film distributor Ava DuVernay. A modern-day Renaissance woman, DuVernay, is no stranger to putting action behind her words.

Her work shouts for itself.

In 2012, DuVernay’s second feature film, “The Middle of Nowhere,” won her the Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival, making her the first Black woman to do so. The 2014 film “Selma” paved the way for DuVernay to be the first Black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director.

DuVernay’s acclaimed Netflix documentary “13th” earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 2018, DuVernay’s adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” made her the first Black female director with a $100 million budget.

DuVernay makes breaking down antiquated barriers look easy.

Success for trailblazers like DuVernay is not just about the outcome, but instead about every ounce of heart and fearlessness that goes into the process. The directorial lineup for “Queen Sugar,” her series on OWN, is composed entirely of women. DuVernay is the people’s champ, incorporating intention into all that she does. Every time she wins, so do we.

DuVernay’s latest venture is a byproduct of one of her earlier successes. ARRAY, her distribution company, characterizes itself as a “rebirth” of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, founded by DuVernay in 2010.  

Tambay Obenson, fellow lover of Black cinematic collectivity, reported on ARRAY’s bright future for IndieWire. In 2019, ARRAY plans to house a 50-seat theater, screening ARRAY titles and work by local filmmakers. Obenson, a writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur, recognizes the magnitude of ARRAY’s existence.

“The ARRAY library is an eclectic selection of independent films,” Obenson told IndieWire. “Many of which were directed by women and/or people of color, united by singular visions and themes of social justice — a template that mainstream distributors often dismiss out of hand.”

It is a challenge not having larger theaters invest in marginalized stories, let alone appreciate them. ARRAY paves the way for ownership. The independent theater will be located west of downtown Los Angeles and available for rental- the first of its kind in the area.


In order for ARRAY to thrive, it must be a team effort. Obenson highlights Tilane Jones, the company’s vice president, and her take on independent film culture.

“It’s about not only ownership, but also access,” said Jones. “We are really trying to honor the theatrical tradition, so our audience has access to work they may not see elsewhere, effectively changing the mindset of what they believe should or should not be on the big screen.”

True to character, Tambay’s support did not go unappreciated by DuVernay.


ARRAY is a home for underrepresented stories. For Black people in this country, so much time and energy is invested into simply getting a foot in the door, there is little left to decipher what comes after the first step. DuVernay is a working reminder that it is time to start building our own doors. Once the foundation is placed, there is freedom to build enough space for all who have yet to find their home

ARRAY’s ambitions are a reassuring reminder that dreams never stray too far from reality. All it takes are people ready and willing to do the work, appreciating each step of the way.