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TIFF Review: Ava DuVernay Asks the Big Questions in the Moving and Powerful ‘Origin’

By: Joey Magidson
Publication: Awards Radar
September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023
Photo Credit: Atsushi Nishijima

Angela Davis once said that “walls turned sideways are bridges,” and that’s something Ava DuVernay definitely believes. Not only did she say it while introducing Origin here at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie reflects it. In taking on some of the most expansive and challenging material of her career, DuVernay has also crafted her best film to date. This is a moving and powerful work that demands to be seen, as well as discussed.

Origin is a stunner. It’s meant to be a conversation starter, whether you agree with all of her points or not. In fact, she’s very much inviting debate, Adapting the Isabel Wilkerson book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents would be a challenge for anyone. DuVernay makes it look easy, even though it undoubtedly wasn’t. The emotions she generates are consistently strong, yet never manipulative.

An adaptation of the book Caste, it’s the story of how author Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) went on a journey that led to its writing. In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing, Isabel is set to take some time off, wanting to help her elderly mother (Emily Yancy). Her husband (Jon Bernthal) sees the writer inside her needing to get out, which happens in the aftermath of a pair of tragedies in Isabel’s life.

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