Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay was unsure about directing a science fantasy film based on a book she had never read.
Then, a Disney executive made an intriguing proposal. If she adapted “A Wrinkle in Time,” Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 classic, she could compose new worlds.
“‘Worlds?’” DuVerney recalled saying to the executive in a Time Magazine interview. “He said, ‘There are planets, and you get to decide what they look like.’ I was just like, ‘I do?’”
Not many. In fact, DuVernay was the first African American woman to direct a live-action movie with a $100 million budget. The film boasts a star-studded cast, featuring Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who.
Then there’s Storm Reid, a relative newcomer who portrays 13-year-old Meg Murry.
In the book, Meg is depicted as a brilliant girl who has felt isolated since her scientist father went missing. She meets up with supernatural beings — the three Mrs. W’s — who promise to help her get across the universe.
So, Meg embarks on a trippy journey that transports her through space and time, all in the name of finding her father.
The significance of watching a young girl of color like Meg grow into herself in a big-budget movie can’t be underestimated. Young black girls can watch someone who looks like them go on an adventure on the big screen.
Meg is #BlackGirlMagic, come to life.
“If I was younger [and] saw Meg as myself, Meg would empower me and inspire me and make me feel like I could save the world,” Reid told Teen Vogue.
If you’re skeptical about the film’s potential impact, just look back a few weeks at the eye-popping success of “Black Panther,” which helped bring February box office totals to $1 billion for the first time ever, according to ComScore reports. Then rewind another few months: “Coco,” a Pixar-animated movie, brought in $700 million in worldwide box office totals and won an Oscar.
What is it about these movies that have so clearly captivated audiences? Maybe the answer is an uncomfortable one for white audiences and white movie executives: Minorities are finally being represented, and we’re bringing our wallets.
We’ve been here the whole time, waiting for someone (anyone) to tell our stories in the mainstream, with all the bells and whistles that a blockbuster film’s budget brings. And instead of minorities being expected to empathize with a predominantly white cast, a generation of young viewers can grow up watching people of color on screen.
In a montage reel at Sunday’s Academy Awards, Oscar nominee Kumail Nanjiani explained it beautifully:
“Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes about straight white dudes,” Nanjiani said. “Now, straight white dudes can watch movies starring me, and you relate to that. It’s not that hard, I’ve done it my whole life.”
“A Wrinkle in Time” will be in select cities on Thursday and in theaters nationwide on Friday.