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Ava DuVernay Boards Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents at Netflix

Under her ARRAY Filmworks banner for Netflix, Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Ava DuVernay will direct, write and produce a new feature film adaptation based on the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club selection, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (buy at Amazon) by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson.

Through a multiple-story structure, Caste examines the unspoken system that has shaped America and chronicles how our lives today are defined by a hierarchy of human divisions dating back generations.

Caste marks DuVernay’s next feature project and her first feature film at Netflix, reuniting her with Netflix executive Tendo Nagenda. The pair worked together on Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, making her the highest-grossing Black woman director in American box office history.

The project continues Netflix’s relationship with DuVernay, who was the first Black woman feature director to be nominated for an Academy Award with her acclaimed documentary 13th, garnering BAFTA, Emmy and Peabody Awards.

Most recently, her limited series When They See Us received 16 Emmy nominations. DuVernay is currently producing a limited series for Netflix based on the adolescent life of athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick entitled Colin in Black & White.

DuVernay will produce alongside Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes of ARRAY Filmworks.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is officially described as follows: In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more.

Using riveting stories about people — including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others — she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.

She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics.

Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.


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