EXCLUSIVE: We are hearing from sources that Origin, the new movie from Oscar nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, is not only the highest tested movie in her career, but for Neon, the pic’s distributor too.
Origin landed a 91 total positive in the top two boxes with an 81 definite recommend in its audience testing, outstripping Neon’s Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and 2020 Best Picture Oscar winner, Parasite, which clocked a 91 total positive and 73 definite recommend, as well as the studio’s other Oscar winner, I, Tonya, which earned an 88 total positive, and 68 definite recommend.
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We understand that the focus groups who remain after an Origin test screening are emotionally in tears, moved by what they’ve just seen, with deep conversations with other moviegoers on the pic’s social issues. The movie has an awards qualifying release in LA and NYC on Dec. 8 before opening on Jan. 19.
Neon took global rights on Origin before its premiere at the Venice Film Festival where it received an eight-minute standing ovation. In the wake of its premiere, the movie stands at 85% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. With Origin, DuVernay became the first Black American woman to have a selection in the Venice Film Festival.
Origin is based on Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 bestseller Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents and tracks the Pulitzer Prize winner’s creative and personal journey over several continents through grief, revelation and the evils of historical stratification. King Richard Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor plays Wilkerson. The movie contains strong and scary connections to today’s political realities, both domestic and international, from antiquity to India’s Dalit caste (once called Untouchables) to slavery in America and the segregation and violence of Jim Crow laws, and to the Nazis’ systematic persecution of Jews and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Oscar-nominated DuVernay told Deadline’s Dominic Patten in an interview, “The goal of Origin, of this work, is to say stop a second, realize what is going on, how close we are to this and to start to challenge our vocabulary. To challenge, what we think we know, challenge what our forms and symbols are and what they mean. To challenge this mindless behavior that we’re in. This state where we accept everything, where we accept that all this is racism and this is just the way it is. No, really start to interrogate.”
She further added, “The reaction I’m expecting is challenges, and I’m hoping for some understanding in there too.”
The movie also stars Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Nick Offerman, Blair Underwood, Finn Wittrock, Jasmine Cephas-Jones and Connie Nielsen.
DuVernay received a 2017 Oscar nomination in the Feature Documentary category for 13th. The Netflix movie took an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States, revealing the nation’s history of racial inequality. DuVernay’s movie Selma about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s epic march from Selma to Montgomery, AL won an original song Oscar for “Glory” by Common and John Legend. DuVernay’s Disney movie A Wrinkle in Time with over $132M WW is the second highest ever for a Black American female filmmaker after Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels ($161M WW).
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