Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” Depicts a Writer’s Life That’s as Vital as Her Subject

Reviews are starting to pour in for writer/director Ava DuVernay’s latest film, Origin, which recently had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. DuVernay’s latest is centered on the life and work of author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson, specifically on her astonishing, Pulitzer Prize-winning 2020 book “Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents.” Wilkerson’s book was as ambitious in scope as it was scorching to read, centered on her theory that linked racism in the United States to the caste system, most obviously evident in India but also, in Wilkerson’s telling, the very basis for Nazi Germany’s planned obliteration of the Jewish population. It was the must-read book of 2020, a monumental feat that was simultaneously brilliant, heartbreaking, and profound.

This material seems an almost impossible challenge to turn into a narrative feature film, yet it didn’t daunt the ever-ambitious, undoubtedly brilliant DuVernay, who proved with Selma and When They See Us that she’s especially adept at tackling monumental history and sprawling, interconnected systems of abuse with verve, vigor, and command. With Origin, DuVernay set herself the challenge of depicting Wilkerson’s life (she’s played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor), both her challenges as a writer and her emotional and romantic life, as she pieced together her theory of American racism.

“To distill Wilkerson’s ideas, DuVernay looks at the personal events that propelled the author to write Caste, shaping Origin as a process film,” writes Lovia Gyarkye in The Hollywood Reporter. “This intimate vantage point also offers a tender love story — one brought to life by passionate and committed performances from Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Jon Bernthal.”

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw wrote, “This is a film with strength and purpose.”

More reviews will arrive in the coming days, but let’s take a peek at what some of the critics are saying now:

For more on big films coming out of the Venice and Telluride film festivals, check out these stories:

Austin Butler & Jodie Comer’s Romance Revs Up in “The Bikeriders” Trailer

Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” Unveils Her Film About Author Isabel Wilkerson & The Creation of a Masterpiece

Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” Unveils Her Film About Author Isabel Wilkerson & The Creation of a Masterpiece

“Poor Things” Pops in Venice as Emma Stone Earns Raves in Yorgos Lanthimos’s Stunner

Featured image: VENICE, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Director Ava DuVernay attends a photocall for “Origin” at the 80th Venice International Film Festival on September 06, 2023 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)



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