Ava DuVernay Speaks on ‘Shocking’ George Floyd Video and Announces New Initiative

Ava DuVernay speaks out on the May 25 killing of George Floyd.

On Monday’s episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the acclaimed director was asked by host Ellen DeGeneres about her thoughts regarding the recent worldwide protests denouncing racial injustice and police brutality.

“These are times that... I don’t even describe them as tough times, I describe them as important times,” the 47-year-old told DeGeneres. “You know, for me, I [am] unfortunately kind of desensitized to so many of the racist, violent images because I have to use them so much in my work.”

While referencing her films, which often discuss issues of systemic racism, the filmmaker continued, “I looked through thousands of hours of this kind of footage for ‘13th,’ looked through beatings and police brutality footage for ‘Selma’ and for ‘When They See Us.’ So it was really shocking to me why the George Floyd video just brought me to my knees.”

In the video, a handcuffed and unarmed Floyd is being pinned to the ground by white police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee. While Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter, the three other police officers involved – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter.

“It was both men, right in your face,” DuVernay said. “Right to the lens, one begging for his life and one taking his life.”

“The startling nature of that for me is that it showed me... it made me realize that we have let police officers who abuse off the hook by allowing them to recede into society,” she continued.

While DuVernay says “we know the names of black victims” — including Philando Castile, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Sean Reed, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown — “we never know who killed them.”

“This invisibility allows us to tell a story that is incomplete. And so for me, that’s a lot of what I’ve been thinking about in this moment, how we’ve allowed this sense of police invisibility, which leads to a lack of accountability, which is just one of many issues within our current criminal justice system that needs to be dismantled.”

In order to shine a light on police violence and abuse, DuVernay has launched a new initiative, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), which will commission art projects to tell such stories.

“We’re asking for narrative change and we’re creating narrative change around police abuse, misconduct, and murder of black people,” she said. “We’re changing the lens of the story.”

Watch clips of her interview, below:

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