Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin’ Submits Original Song ‘I Am’ for Oscars

Ava DuVernay‘s latest drama “Origin” has added an original song to its Oscar prospects.

New Zealand Māori artist Stan Walker performed the new song, “I Am,” at a private film screening at the Edition Hotel in West Hollywood on Wednesday. He also co-wrote the track with Michael Fatkin, Vince Harder and Te Kanapu Anasta. The song enters a competitive race of Oscar hopefuls from movies such as “Barbie” and “Trolls Band Together.”

Walker would make history as the second Indigenous person, and the first Indigenous man, nominated for original song. Buffy Sainte-Marie became the first Indigenous person ever to win an Academy Award in 1982 for the song “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Aside from Sainte-Marie, the only Indigenous Oscar winner in 95 years is Taika Waititi, who took home the adapted screenplay prize for “Jojo Rabbit” (2019).

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At the screening, DuVernay participated in an intimate conversation and acknowledged her artisans team in attendance, which included producer Paul Garnes, cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd, composer Kris Bowers and audio engineer Willie D. Burton, one of only five Black people to have won multiple Oscars. Others: actors Denzel Washington (“Glory” and “Training Day”) and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight” and “Green Book”), costume designer Ruth E. Carter (“Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and sound mixer Russell Williams II (“Glory” and “Dances with Wolves”). Burton won for “Bird” and “Dreamgirls.”

The room was full of industry voters including Oscar winner Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), nominee Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Academy President Janet Yang. Other notable attendees included Rae Dawn Chong, Jurnee Smollett and Saniyya Sidney.

Distributor Neon is doing a full awards push for the film, where DuVernay can make history as the first Black woman nominated for directing and adapted screenplay. She’s already made history at the Oscars multiple times. For her Martin Luther King Jr. film “Selma” (2014), she became the first Black woman to direct a movie nominated for best picture. She garnered the same distinction in 2017 with “13th,” becoming the first Black woman nominated for best documentary feature.

“Origin” will open in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 8 before going nationwide on Jan. 19, 2024.

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