This year, Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman to win Sundance’s best directing award for her second feature-length film, Middle of Nowhere. It’s about a young black woman who puts her life on hold while her husband is in prison. In research for the film, Ava conducted hundreds of interviews with women who visited loved ones behind bars. From the Fresh Air interview:

You get there early because the women want to get the full day. So they all arrive, and many of them will travel in the wee hours before dark, before visiting hours begin so they can be in line. And then the series of screenings. And then if one person has the wrong length of skirt, then that takes time — you’re behind her so you’ve got to wait for that. Bags are being checked. Children are involved. And then there may be issues with your incarcerated loved one even coming out. [There have] been several instances when we visited where the person that I was going to meet couldn’t come out that day. And yet, you’d gone through this whole trek to get there. These prisons are not centrally located either, so they’re usually a ways out, outside the city — certainly in California, they’re out in the high desert areas, so that’s quite a drive. And if you don’t have a car, then it’s quite a bus ride. So it’s an ordeal. …

And then you get in that chair, and you’re facing someone who you have to become reacquainted with. And you have to share what’s going on with you — it might be financial issues he can’t help with. And then also trying to balance that with what’s going on with him back there — it’s a very, very complicated experience.


Thank God I’m very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn’t change a thing, I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life.

Leila Lopes, 2011 Miss Universe (Miss Angola)