Don’t let that title deter you from reading more, I’m not going to cover my own opinion of Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time but rather the worrying note it leaves for the future of female POC filmmakers working in Hollywood. From directing Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, director Ava DuVernay, whose previous films include the Academy Award-nominated Selma and 13th, had become the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget that exceeds $100 million. Of course, its release was set to become a big deal within the film industry across the globe but its fate at the box office was perhaps one thing that was always going to be leaving us feeling uncertain about what it means for WOC filmmakers in the future.
I had always been rather hesitant about the idea of an adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, not because it was a novel that I loved when I was younger (I had actually not read it yet), but because I’ve always heard that it was going to prove itself a difficult novel to adapt onto the screen in any way. When the first trailer for A Wrinkle in Time dropped, what I thought to myself was that there’s only so many possibilities as to where else it would go because it could either be something loved by audiences or hated by the majority. The general reception has proven itself to be more mixed than ever but with that also having been said, it is also slated to fail at the box office because of its budget costs.
Regardless of how well A Wrinkle in Time performs at the box office, its critical reception will also be set to become weaponized against it because of the insistence of “hiring based on skill and not diversity.” I do believe in hiring based on skill, but what I never got was why skill and diversity need to be mutually exclusive to one another, especially at the lack of prominence regarding female filmmakers or POC filmmakers in Hollywood among the lot. As a matter of fact, the film is also being trashed on IMDb right now with a poor rating of 4.0 with 32.9% of its nearly 4000 voters giving it the lowest rating of 1/10. Which brings me back to recall a low Black Panther score on the site upon its release, but it isn’t surprising in the slightest when you consider how toxic the IMDb community has always been. Rotten Tomatoes is only slightly better at that, with a 5.2/10 average and a 42% score.
So, with that having been said, is there really anything more to be said about the situation that Ava DuVernay has placed herself within via A Wrinkle in Time? The very problem that it also presents is that people are set to blame her for the film’s shortcomings and there’s also a possibility that she won’t be allowed to continue working in Hollywood again because she directed a super expensive film that didn’t do well. No matter what, this was set to become a lose-lose situation for herself, which wasn’t at all something that I would have wanted for a rather talented filmmaker that I know DuVernay truly is.
The social significance of A Wrinkle in Time will also be making it the subject of intense politicization – thus it becomes harder to look at what it accomplishes on its own terms. If I were just going to give my opinion of the film as is, I thought that it was a fine enough effort. I thought that it was fairly average, on the count that the elaborate nature the source material feels lost amidst a series of broad strokes that make up what we have of the story being told as is. So where are we going to expect the political extremes to come in? Considering that this is a first in the same sense that Wadjda was a first for Saudi Arabia, we can only expect that being the first is only going to be representative of the inevitable future for WOC filmmakers.
It’s rather alarming when you look at how the industry has treated female filmmakers compared to prominent males within the business – I’ll put out Kathryn Bigelow as an example. After the failure of K-19: The Widowmaker, she was not able to make a film for eight years, and that project was none other than The Hurt Locker, for which she became the first female to win the Academy Award for Best Director as well as the first female director of a Best Picture-winning film. But considering the scope of both films put next to one another, it reflects the sexism of the film industry in the sense that females get shut out so easily after a failure regardless of the influence left behind yet a male can still finance themselves with ease and they would end up turning out a success on that next turn.
So how exactly do you really “respond” to those who weaponize A Wrinkle in Time against WOC filmmakers trying to make a name for themselves in Hollywood? In the same age where we already would have figured that the initial Black Panther rating would have been tainted as a result of the fears escalated on the count of toxic masculinity within the film community, we know that A Wrinkle in Time would be receiving some unfair treatment for similar reasons. Are we really going to be giving A Wrinkle in Time our money just because we know we want to call for more diversity to be present in Hollywood? I think that’s one way of responding, but the ability to judge the film for what it sets out for is going to prove itself more important within the process.
I paid $20 in CAD to watch A Wrinkle in Time in IMAX, and I do not regret it one bit. Do I have much reason to watch it again? To that, I’ll say no. But what I know I can say is that the fact that A Wrinkle in Time was even made is admirable enough on its own, because of what it stands for on behalf of WOC filmmakers is that they are capable of making big budget films. But what’s already worrying is the way it is being received critically and its potential box office fate, because it sends the industry a wholly different idea. It reaffirms the prominence of racism and sexism within the film industry as well as the moviegoing public because we know that it is hard enough for a filmmaker who is part of a minority to make a name for themselves no matter how diverse our recognition for them can be.
It was a point being made by last year’s rather brilliant Get Out, in the sense that it won’t be seen as is but rather a product of “wokeness” by white people that only sets up something more intimidating from the perspective of black people telling their own stories. Disliking this movie is obviously not going to make you racist or sexist for the matter but you cannot falsify how politics will find their way of getting involved. I believe that art, by virtue of having been made by a human being, is inherently political because messages being conveyed by effective artwork is a result of ideology and how the spectator responds. But as years of being active within film communities and searching for my own calling card within the industry in the future has taught me, it’s totally okay.
I still believe that the lack of diversity in the film industry will remain topical if we continue not to do anything about it, because we know that there are capable enough people to take on such responsibilities as we know Ava DuVernay was for being able to make A Wrinkle in Time. The worrying thing about what it set forth is that it will become the only hope for the future and its critical reception and box office results will not be reflective of a whole group that go on to direct films on bigger budgets. If anything can really be said about how it goes, it isn’t going to be the fault of Ava DuVernay, so we shouldn’t hold this film against her. She deserves so much better from all of us, as a significant part of the people that make up her audience. So please, don’t make this be the “end all, be all” of WOC working behind big budget studio films, just commemorate that they were even able to get these made regardless of how you felt about the film itself, because that’s a totally different story.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Wonderful essay, Jaime. Really insightful and well written.
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