A day before its much-anticipated premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Ava DuVernay’s Origin has sold to Neon for worldwide distribution.
DuVernay wrote, produced and directed Origin and is breaking ground in Venice as the first Black U.S. female director in the festival’s 80-year history to have a feature in competition. (Watch the trailer, below.)
Neon described the sales process as “competitive” and said it will release the film across the U.S. later this year. The film is getting a North American premiere in Toronto after Venice and ahead of the theatrical release.
Origin is inspired by the remarkable life and work of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson — played by Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) — as she pens her seminal book, Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents. While grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, Isabel sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery. Despite the colossal scope of her project, she finds beauty and bravery while crafting one of the defining American books of our time.
Co-starring in the film are Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, Finn Wittrock, Jasmine Cephas-Jones and Connie Nielsen.
Paul Garnes and DuVernay produced Origin under her ARRAY Filmworks banner. In addition to DuVernay and Garnes, the team of artists behind Origin is led by cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd, ASC, production designer Ina Mayhew, editor Spencer Averick A.C.E, composer Kris Bowers, costume designer Dominique Dawson and casting director Aisha Coley.
The distribution deal was negotiated by Neon CEO Tom Quinn and CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers.
“I’ve known Ava for a long time and my love and admiration for her and her work goes back further, even before Middle of Nowhere,” said Quinn. “I’m truly humbled that it is this movie which has finally brought us together. She has always been a gifted storyteller, and her mastery of her craft shines through in this deeply personal and inspired adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s book, and dramatization of her remarkable life. Origin proves once again that Ava remains one of the most groundbreaking and essential filmmakers of her generation.”
DuVernay made history as the first Black woman to direct a film nominated for the Academy Award for best picture with Selma, chronicling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visionary leadership during the landmark 1965 civil right marches. She was also nominated for the best documentary feature Oscar for 13th, an in-depth look at the U.S. prison system and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. And her acclaimed limited series When They See Us, for which she directed all episodes, was nominated for 16 Emmys in 2019. She was also the first African American woman to win Sundance’s best director award in 2012 with her second feature, Middle of Nowhere.
Neon is enjoying a busy Venice festival. The label also has rights to Michael Mann’s Ferrari, which premiered early in the fest and stars Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey, and Jack O’Connell. Neon will release that film in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day.