LOS ANGELES (AP) — To say filmmaker Ava DuVernay is a busy woman is an understatement, but when Turner Classic Movies called and asked her to curate the channel’s “The Essentials” series, she knew she had to make it work.
Usually “The Essentials” is filmed across two or three days. But the only way it would fit in with DuVernay’s schedule — which included editing her “Central Park Five” Netflix miniseries and prepping the DC film “New Gods,” among other projects — was if she and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz ruminated about 17 films in one marathon day.
The new season, which launches Saturday, May 4, will include widely known films like “West Side Story,” ″Dog Day Afternoon” and “Gandhi” as well as films that may not be as familiar, like “Losing Ground.” The Associated Press got a front-row seat to the conversations between DuVernay and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz at the taping last month in Los Angeles.
It was a film lover’s dream tuning into the in-depth dialogues between the two cinema fiends. Their talking continued even after the cameras stopped rolling, from the pronunciation of actor John Cazale’s name to Queen Latifah’s attempt to make a film about singer Ethel Waters and whether or not it was appropriate to discuss Lena Horne’s personal affairs. The two didn’t shy away from talking about films that may be problematic now but were important at the time either, like Vincente Minnelli’s “Cabin in the Sky,” which was the first musical to feature a cast of all African Americans.
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