2024 NAACP Image Awards: Queen of Documentaries: 5 Powerful Non-Fiction Films Directed by Ava DuVernay

The award-winning director has a knack for using her powerful lens to depict groundbreaking stories that tackle music, race, culture, and corrupt systems.

Ava Duvernay is one of the most prolific filmmakers of our time. Thankfully, the award-winning director picked up a camera for the first time at age 32 and hasn’t put it down since. Over the years, she’s made a name for herself with deeply moving onscreen projects, which sparked change across the entertainment industry for diverse storytelling and creatives and has changed the lives of many.

In between filmmaking, the six-time NAACP Image Award nominee also founded ARRAY, her non-profit independent film collective that strives to distribute and amplify the works of women and minority filmmakers.

US comedian Ayo Edebiri arrives for the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California on January 15, 2023. (Photo by Michael TRAN / AFP) (Photo by MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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While DuVernay’s dramatic films and television series have earned her high praise from critics, documentaries like 13th and This Is the Life helped her climb the ranks. Join us as we look at five of DuVernay’s compelling non-fiction films.

This is the Life

This Is the Life marked DuVernay’s first foray into documentaries and feature films period. Her 2008 debut examined the alternative hip-hop movement spilling out of Los Angeles’ Good Life Café in the ‘90s and the underground rap legends it birthed.

My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip Hop


DuVernay continued her film pursuit centered on hip-hop, this time in her documentary My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip Hop. The 2010 film analyzed the art and issues of women in the culture from the ‘80s to the 2010s.

Essence Presents: Faith Through the Storm

DuVernay’s TV documentary Essence Presents: Faith Through the Storm, commissioned by Essence Magazine, was also released in 2010. It centered on two Hurricane Katrina survivors five years after the traumatic storm and the gospel music that helped them reclaim their lives.


13th, the Netflix documentary that earned DuVernay an Oscar nomination, takes an in-depth look at America’s harsh prison system and traces the nation's history of racial inequality and mistreatment through it.


DuVernay’s Origin, though not a documentary, adapts Isabel Wilkerson’s non-fiction work Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent into a gripping analysis of the roots of racism against the backdrop of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s life. Starring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Wilkerson, the film connects real-life instances like America’s racial divide, the Holocaust, India's degrading caste system, and Trayvon Martin’s tragic murder in a way DuVernay only saw fitting for a narrative film feature.

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