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The Essentials - May 2019
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The Essentials - Saturdays in May

TCM is thrilled to welcome back The Essentials to our lineup, in which a TCM host sits with special guests who have chosen films to be added to our list of "must-sees" for movie lovers. Each Saturday in primetime, this weekly showcase will once again highlight some of the finest movies ever made.

This year's special host for "The Essentials" is the trailblazing producer, director and screenwriter Ava DuVernay, who will join primetime host Ben Mankiewicz to discuss the films she has chosen. DuVernay, who is based in Los Angeles, is a winner of Emmy, BAFTA and Peabody awards.

For her 2012 film Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay earned a Sundance Film Festival award for Directing, and for her 2014 feature Selma, she became the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, as well as the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe. Her 2016 film 13th won an Oscar nomination as Best Documentary Feature.

DuVernay's 2018 fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, released through Disney, made her the highest-grossing black woman director in American box-office history. She has been active in television for a decade and served as producer and writer on the popular series Queen Sugar. Her miniseries When They See Us is released worldwide on Netflix this month. Here are her choices for "The Essentials":

Marty (1955) is Delbert Mann's highly praised big-screen version of Paddy Chayefsky's touching teleplay about an ordinary Italian-American butcher who lives in the Bronx with his mother. His life gets changed when he meets another lonely soul, a high school teacher named Clara (Betsy Blair). Academy Awards went to the film for Best Picture, to director Mann and screenwriter Chayefsky and to Ernest Borgnine for his sensitive performance as Marty. Also nominated were supporting players Blair and Joe Mantell (as Marty's pal Angie), the film's art direction/set decoration and the black-and-white photography of Joseph LaShelle.

Ashes and Embers (1982), directed by Haile Gerima, is a rarely-seen drama about a troubled black veteran of the Vietnam War (John Anderson) who faces new challenges as he tries to reconnect to urban life. Gerima won a prize for his film at the 1983 Berlin International Film Festival. DuVernay's Array Releasing company acquired the film in 2015 and arranged for a full restoration and its first-ever theatrical release.

Cabin in the Sky (1943) is director Vincente Minnelli's film version of the 1940 all-black Broadway musical about a gambler who comes close to death after being shot and finds agents of the Lord and the Devil struggling for his soul. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is the gambler, Little Joe; Ethel Waters is his faithful wife, Petunia; and Lena Horne (in her only leading role in an MGM musical) is the temptress Georgia Brown. "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" was nominated for Best Original Song.

Pather Panchali (1955) is an Indian Bengali-language film that marked the debut of writer-director Satyajit Ray. It is the opening film in the "Apu trilogy" and depicts the early life of the central character Apu (Subir Banerjee), his older sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta) and the hardships their family endures in the village where they live. The film took almost three years to make and is considered a turning point in Indian cinema, becoming one of the first from its country to attract major international attention. It is the winner of numerous national and international awards.

by Roger Fristoe

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