February 24, 2024

Richard Brody’s thoughtful perspective on movies never fails to surprise and illuminate. With his writings under The Front Row, he has introduced me to films and filmmakers I didn’t know about. While we don’t always agree, Richard’s viewpoints are always thought-provoking. For instance, he insists that Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit” should be valued as a masterpiece—a stance I don’t agree with. However, we were aligned in praising Ava DuVernay’s latest film, “Origin,” based on the work of journalist Isabel Wilkerson.

Isabel Wilkerson’s books “The Warmth of Other Suns” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” are both remarkable in storytelling and intellectual exploration, though the latter is less narrative-driven. What Brody recognized in his review was that DuVernay’s decision to add a personal narrative, Wilkerson’s presence, made “Origin” such a compelling film.

Beyond her other works like “Selma” and “When They See Us,” “Origin” has been a challenging project. It took DuVernay to seek funding outside conventional channels, yet the film’s quality speaks for itself. DuVernay’s personal interviews shed light on how she was drawn to the intellectual depth of “Caste” and Wilkerson’s exploration of history.

By focusing on Wilkerson’s researching process, DuVernay’s decision to make the author the film’s narrative driver is a bold, inspired choice. This subtle narrative shift brought Wilkerson’s intellectual pursuits to life on the screen, expanding the conversation around her work, compelling the audience to engage with her ideas further. Additionally, DuVernay’s statement that she aims to share what she learns and excites her aligns with her filmmaking approach, as seen in “Origin.”