Ava DuVernay directs an inspired adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s life, as she digs into the nuance of discrimination while writing what would become her New York Times bestselling book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
The intellectual rigour of Isabel Wilkerson’s New York Times bestseller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is coupled with insight into her journey while writing the book, in this inspired adaptation by Ava DuVernay.
Already established as the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her journalism, Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) is confronted by the question of race once again when a colleague asks her to write about Trayvon Martin’s death. Her husband, Brett (Jon Bernthal), encourages her to tackle the case, but she’s more interested in the core of where racial injustice comes from. After a tragedy forces her to reorient her life, Isabel begins a research project which spans the globe, as she travels to Germany and India where she investigates the disenfranchisement of Jewish people during the Third Reich and the marginalization of Dalit “untouchables.” While initially struggling to explain her theory to family and colleagues, Isabel breaks down a codified framework of dehumanization for her book, making the argument that race and caste aren’t simply synonyms.
Origin stands as a unique chronicle of just how intimate a journalist’s journey toward sharing a new idea with the world can be. DuVernay creates powerful cinematic images out of the stories that Wilkerson brought to light in her non-fiction work, and the dark moments of her personal life which informed its writing. It results in a deeply moving portrait of the enduring trauma caused by discrimination, and the work required to heal afterwards.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival