The Reel Review


A Pulitzer Prize-winning author traces systemic racism in America back to its roots in humanity’s centuries-old caste systems while coping with her own personal grief – the deaths of two of her dearest loved ones. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor stars in writer/director Ava DuVernay’s historical drama – an unconventional adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 best-seller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Jon Bernthal and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor in Origin

DuVernay’s film is audacious and introspective, despite often feeling like two separate films clumsily spliced together – one, a heartfelt tearjerker about grief and loss, and the other, an interesting history lesson on humanity’s subjugation of certain classes of people – be it Black Americans, Jews in Nazi Germany or India’s Dalits, also known as the untouchables. DuVernay’s unconventional decision to tell Isabel Wilkerson’s story through the author’s own personal tragedies brilliantly transforms a dry history lesson into something deeply emotional and moving, despite its clunky execution.

Lennox Simms in Origin

In her research, Isabel weaves a blood-red thread connecting systemic American racism to the Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany and India’s rigid, centuries-old caste system, making it about more than just race. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (King Richard, When They See Us) is a marvel as Isabel, channeling a very wide range of emotions, with an also fantastic Niecy Nash (Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Reno 911) as Isabel’s cousin and lifelong friend, who helps Isabel focus on making her book relatable. Origin is an imperfect, yet emotionally moving and thought-provoking film – a must see. Bring tissues.


Writer/director Ava DuVernay at the 2024 Oscars

• Ava DuVernay is the first Black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe award, for 2014’s Selma.

• Ava DuVernay says the actor describing the swimming pool discrimination scene near the end of the film drew upon his own emotions that he had actually experienced witnessing a similar incident in real life.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson

• Isabel Wilkerson is the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. Her second husband, Brett Kelly Hamilton, died in 2015, 15 years after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.


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