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Origin review: Ava DuVernay’s bold, fascinating drama exposes a terrible framework of global bigotry

By: Steph Green
Publication: BBC
September 06, 2023
September 06, 2023
(Credit: Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy Array Filmworks)

The Selma director is back with a drama centring on writer Isabel Wilkerson and her research into systemic injustice. It’s fiercely focused and full of heart, writes Steph Green.

In Ava DuVernay’s startlingly scholarly drama about a black academic and her journey in writing a book about “caste” – the hierarchies created within human societies – our protagonist Isabel Wilkerson posits that it is a better term than “racism” to explain the universal origins of hate. That’s because she deems the subjugation and extermination of all manners of groups – from the Jews of Europe to the Dalit peoples in India – to be interconnected.

Possessing both some of the Hollywood sheen of Selma (2014) and the enlightening, instructive tone of her documentary 13th (2016), Origin compellingly pursues a theory about the structural suppression of mass groups through the story of one remarkable individual.

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