A day before its much-anticipated premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Ava DuVernay’s film “Origin” has been acquired by Neon for worldwide distribution. This marks a significant achievement for DuVernay, who wrote, produced, and directed the film, as she becomes the first Black U.S. female director with a feature in competition at the festival’s 80-year history. Neon described the sales process as “competitive” and plans to release the film across the U.S. later this year, following its North American premiere in Toronto.
“Origin” is inspired by the remarkable life and work of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, portrayed by Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis in the film. The story revolves around Wilkerson as she writes her seminal book, “Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents.” Despite personal tragedy, Wilkerson embarks on a global investigation and discovery, finding beauty and bravery in the process. The film stars an impressive ensemble cast, including Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, Finn Wittrock, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, and Connie Nielsen.
DuVernay produced “Origin” under her ARRAY Filmworks banner, alongside producer Paul Garnes. The film boasts a talented team of artists, led by cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd, ASC, production designer Ina Mayhew, editor Spencer Averick A.C.E, composer Kris Bowers, costume designer Dominique Dawson, and casting director Aisha Coley.
The distribution deal was negotiated by Neon CEO Tom Quinn and CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers. Quinn expressed his admiration for DuVernay and her work, stating, “She has always been a gifted storyteller, and her mastery of her craft shines through in this deeply personal and inspired adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s book, and dramatization of her remarkable life. ‘Origin’ proves once again that Ava remains one of the most groundbreaking and essential filmmakers of her generation.”
DuVernay has a history of making groundbreaking films. She became the first Black woman to direct a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture with “Selma,” which depicted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visionary leadership during the landmark 1965 civil rights marches. She was also nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “13th,” a thought-provoking exploration of the U.S. prison system and its connection to racial inequality. Additionally, her acclaimed limited series “When They See Us,” for which she directed all episodes, received 16 Emmy nominations in 2019. In 2012, she became the first African American woman to win Sundance’s Best Director award with her second feature, “Middle of Nowhere.”
Neon is having a busy Venice Film Festival, as it also secured rights to Michael Mann’s film “Ferrari,” starring Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey, and Jack O’Connell. Neon plans to release “Ferrari” in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day.
With the acquisition of “Origin,” Neon continues to demonstrate its commitment to distributing diverse and thought-provoking films. DuVernay’s presence at the Venice Film Festival as the first Black U.S. female director with a feature in competition serves as a significant milestone for representation and diversity in the industry. Audiences can look forward to experiencing the depth and artistry of “Origin” when it hits theaters later this year, following its highly anticipated premieres at renowned film festivals.