Middle of Nowhere (2012): Ava DuVernay’s Sundance Fest Winning Film

Ava DuVernay, a former publicist, won the Best Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Fest for her second feature, the aptly titled Middle of Nowhere.

Boasting a truly independent spirit, the film, made on a low-budget of 200,000 and shot in 19 days, tells the story of Ruby, a registered nurse, who must face the harsh reality of her husband going to prison for eight years.

Very much an intimate character study, the feature depicts her struggles with both external and internal forces, as tensions build up, forcing her to make significant decisions.

As Ruby meets new people,she must decide who she is and what is that she truly needs and wants.

The cast is uniformly good, especially Emayatzy Corinealdi in the lead, and David Oyelowo.

DuVernay, who wrote, directed, and produced Middle of Nowhere, shows the signs of a gifted filmmaker, though her feature exhibits the problems of most beginners; she made her debut in 2010 with the rather amateurish indie, I Will Follow.

In conducting research for her new film, DuVernay interviewed the wives of felons, before writing a script about “the texture of the lives of women who live in Compton.”

“This is a story I know very well. I’m from Los Angeles and I know countless women who live this kind of life every day, year after year. You see women struggling to keep it all together while a loved one is in jail. But we don’t hear about them or their struggles in a way that resonates with others. Their stories are so compelling. It’s as if they are in their own little world and no one else sees them. I also wanted to talk about the love between two people in a setting that isn’t the norm and how they survive.”

DuVernay and her crew spent a week shooting in South Los Angeles neighborhood. A Spanish mission-style duplex on East 91st Street served as Ruby’s house in the film.

DuVernay said “When people think South-Central or Compton, it’s all Boyz n the Hood. It’s never a house like this. It becomes an assumption that people who live in these communities don’t care about their home, don’t work as hard for them and don’t own their homes. That’s one of the reasons why I chose this area. It reminded me of the house I grew up in.”

Other shooting locations included Inglewood, a federal correction facility in Victorville, Leimert Park and East Los Angeles.

Emayatzy Corinealdi as Ruby
David Oyelowo as Brian
Omari Hardwick as Derek
Lorraine Toussaint as Ruth
Edwina Findley as Rosie
Sharon Lawrence as Fraine