I knew it as soon as I saw it. A nice-looking, clean-cut black boy wearing a dark gray hoodie sweatshirt on a clear night — coming home from a 7-Eleven with a bag of Skittles and a can of pop. He’s smiling and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. A Hispanic guy on private patrol calls his sighting in. It is a dramatization of the last moments of Trayvon Martin.
Meanwhile, Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American to win a Pulitzer for journalism, is asked to write about this case. She doesn’t do that anymore she explains. She researches and writes long meaningful books, now.
But after her husband and mother die, in quick succession, she starts thinking of the Martin case and begins her research. Yes, it’s about Martin’s murder, but it’s also about why it happened and why slavery happened, and why the Holocaust happened and why there is an untouchable class in India and why there is a historical hierarchy of oppression in the first place.
“Origin” is the fabulously well-crafted true story of how Isabel Wilkerson, played by the beautiful Aunjanue Ellis, wrote her best-selling book, “Caste.” Strongly recommended by my own church and assistant pastor, “Caste” is a revealing look at why there is a hierarchy of privilege in the first place. When Wilkerson’s research comes up with the premise that oppression and subjugation are not necessarily racially determined but are based on something else, she strikes gold.
Wilkerson’s research into the past is depicted with elaborately exact environments and realistic characterization. The scene in a Nazi Germany conference room, where officials are studying and learning from American documents about how slaves were treated, set apart, and dehumanized, was startling.
Wilkerson’s research reveals that through history similar kinds of dehumanization, degradation, and oppression have occurred, but not always through the construct of race. Her most powerful example is of the Dalit people, the untouchables, of India. Even though there is no difference in their race from the Indian population, these people are deemed so untouchable that the water they drink must be poured from containers high above so contact with their skin does not occur.
The genius of the film’s concept, writing about a best-selling nonfiction study from the perspective of how it was written and what was happening to its writer at the time, belongs to Ava DuVernay.
Besides winning an Emmy, an NAACP Image and two BAFTA awards, DuVernay’s two areas of focus include Black women within a racist, patriarchal society and the injustices that have been affecting Black families through time.
Her work, her research, her sensitive voice and her brilliance in bringing “Origin” to the screen will surely secure her name in the 2023 Oscar nominations. “Origin” will be released in New York and LA on Dec. 8, and on Jan. 19 for wide release. Seeing this fabulous production will be well worth your time.
Director/Writer: Ava DuVernay
Based on: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Producers: Ava DuVernay and Paul Garnes
Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nick Offerman and Blair Underwood
Cinematography: Matthew J. Lloyd
Editing: Spencer Averick
Music: Kris Bowers
Release: Dec. 8, 2023 (limited), Jan. 19, 2024 (wide)
Official website and how to view: https://neonrated.com/films/origin
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