Mon 11.25.2013

Ava DuVernay and the Church of Scandal

Last Thursday night I congregated with more than 200 folks at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles for a live communal viewing of the TV show Scandal, officiated by Ava DuVernay, the director of the episode we all came to watch. Before the show started, Ava summoned all to invoke the elders, meaning that in this screening it was ok to engage in a collective “negro cry of call and response,” or the modern version of it, which is tweet and text while you watch. And so we did.

Ava DuVernay

At a time when we are all entangled in conversations about how viewing habits and media consumption are changing, when some worry that the theatrical cinematic experience is threatened by television, VOD, and other platforms, and when community is experienced one tweet at a time, it was so refreshing to gather in a theater with the same excitement and anticipation I experienced at the double feature matinees with my friends when I was a teenager.

So following Ava’s directions, there were woos, and wows and gasps, “don’t do it” and “yes, girl, you go,” and during the commercial breaks, live commentary from the director on how she directed the DP to shoot the steamy sex scene that had all the women in the room delighted with a close-up of the President’s abs. The fact that we were watching TV at a movie theater was both ironic and irrelevant.  We were all moved by the moving image.

This evening was a perfect example of what filmmakers can do beyond their work behind the camera to create community, and how content, whether it is pure entertainment, art-house cinema, or social-issue driven, is adaptable to many forms of viewing and should not be restrained or restricted to the confines of a box at home or the walls of a theater.

By Maria Raquel Bozzi / Director of Film Education