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Visionaries Envisioned

A quartet of Hollywood’s top film directors who turn their insights, their stories and their dreams into works of art that provoke, educate, inspire and entertain. Behind the camera is herself a visionary storyteller and groundbreaking artist, Catherine Opie. The 2019 Guggenheim Fellow is noted for portraiture, studio and landscape photography that explores themes of sexual identity, gender, community and place. Opie turned her lens on directors Blitz Bazawule, Ava DuVernay, Todd Haynes and Cord Jefferson in her downtown Los Angeles studio to create the portraits that follow.

Photography by Catherine Opie

Ava DuVernay, Writer/Director, Origin
Ava DuVernay, Writer/Director, Origin

Ava DuVernay

Writer-Director, Origin

“There are 14 different love stories in Origin. Romantic love, familial love, love of self, love of culture, love with a best friend, a cousin, maternal love—all of these. These stories swirl around within this tough subject matter. And the love pulls you through from scene to scene. That’s how I constructed it. That was my anchor as I built the movie.”

Blitz Bazawule

Director, The Color Purple

“My earliest memory of cinema is watching
The Last Temptation of Christ in a football park in Ghana. It was organized by evangelicals looking to convert the locals. I later found out that the film was directed by Martin Scorsese. Well, the evangelicals succeeded in converting me to cinema for sure.”

Blitz Bazawule, Director The Color Purple
Blitz Bazawule, Director The Color Purple
Todd Haynes, Director May December
Todd Haynes, Director May December

Todd Haynes

Director, May December

“Every woman that I know understands that [mirror] scene [in May December]and has been there. Yes, Gracie is playing games with power and marking her territory around Elizabeth, but it’s a modeling thing about femininity and how it gets passed on from mothers to daughters. I wanted to try to let that all play out in the mirrors that the two women are speaking into and starting to observe each other through.”

Cord Jefferson

Writer-Director, American Fiction

“Some of the satire is taken from the book, but a lot of it is taken from my direct experience working in creative industries and the expectations that people had when they saw me as a Black writer. The subtext of all those conversations is an inability to see Black life as being as complex and dynamic and broad and deep as anybody else’s life. That was something that I was always trying to push back against, sometimes unsuccessfully.”

Cord Jefferson, Writer/Director American Fiction
Cord Jefferson, Writer/Director American Fiction

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