We know about the swing. We know about the swagger. But what most Americans don't know about Venus Williams is how she changed the course of her sport. In a stunning case that captured the European public beginning in 2005, Williams challenged the long-held practice of paying women tennis players less than their male counterparts at Wimbledon.
With a deep sense of obligation to the legacy of Billie Jean King, Williams lobbied British Parliament, UNESCO and Fleet Street for financial parity. And it was her poignant op-ed piece in The London Times that convinced many people that the Wimbledon tournament organizers were "on the wrong side of history."
Roland Garros and Wimbledon finally relented in 2007. That year at Wimbledon, Venus became the first women's champion to earn as much as the men's singles winner (Roger Federer).
"Venus VS." chronicles Williams' fight for pay equality.
Director's bio: Ava DuVernay
Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film "Middle of Nowhere," Ava DuVernay is a writer, producer, director and distributor of independent film. DuVernay made her feature directorial debut with the critically acclaimed 2008 hip-hop documentary, "This Is The Life." A winner of Audience Awards in Toronto, Los Angeles and Seattle, the film debuted on Showtime in April 2009. LA Weekly raved, " 'This Is The Life' vaults into the upper echelons of must-see hip-hop documentaries."
In 2010, DuVernay wrote, produced and directed the narrative feature "I Will Follow," starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Released theatrically in 2011, the family drama was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as "one of the best films I've seen about the loss of a loved one."
DuVernay also directed and produced three network music documentaries in 2010. "My Mic Sounds Nice" is a definitive history of female hip-hop artists. "Essence Music Festival 2010" is a two-hour concert film chronicling the nation's largest annual African-American entertainment gathering. "Faith Through The Storm" is a documentary about black women Katrina survivors. Each film aired on BET and TV One, respectively.
Previously, DuVernay worked as a film marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, forming DVA Media + Marketing in 1999. Her award-winning firm provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann and Bill Condon. A UCLA graduate, DuVernay is the founder of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She is based in Los Angeles.
DuVernay: Personal statement
"Venus VS." is a documentary examining the ground-breaking actions of Venus Williams and the fair pay struggle in the game of women's tennis as it unfolded at Wimbledon from 1973-2012. From the advent of the WTA by Billie Jean King and the Original Nine to the 2012 gender politics reignited by male tennis player Gilles Simon, the film outlines the prelude to, and impact of, Williams' bold public statement and private campaigning, which served as a springboard for radical change within the sport.
Venus is a superior athlete, a legend; but she is also an activist who revolutionized her sport off the court with her fight for prize equality. I don't believe this story should be relegated to dusty history books and British newspapers. People in the United States should know of her true professional bravery and personal tenacity in making sure women athletes are regarded and rewarded on par with their male counterparts. This is my mission.
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