Origin is the exploration and brutal understanding of Caste and the system of inequality it has shaped across multiple contents and generations of humans from every corner of the world. Adapted from the book “Caste: The Origins of our Discontents” from Pulitzer Prize winner author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson, Origin seeks to go beyond understanding racism in our world and rather focuses on a system that oppresses everyone despite their skin color. What she explains in her book and what the film focuses on is how racism and so many other horrible things in our society have been utilized in this Caste system against people in order to keep them down and to keep power at the top for a select group.
After turning down the opportunity to write about the Treyvon Martin murder case, author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) begins the ideas of her new book that focuses on Caste and how this system divides society into hereditary classes. As she travels to Germany to learn more about the Nazi’s and their practices, and after going to India to learn about their treatment of Dalits (lowest class of India citizen who literally cleans shit with their hands), Isabel finds a common thread through the Caste system that even connects to modern day US events. As she speaks with real people all over the world, she also learns that connection and understanding is the key to healing and helping people understand.
Most impressive about this film is the scope of the story and just how incredibly detailed Wilkerson’s work in the field was. This book is no doubt filled with incredible studies and language surrounding these different societies which makes this film adaptation by Ava DuVernay even more impressive. Director of the sensational and moving Selma, as well as the gripping and revealing When They See Us and 13th, DuVernay tells stories about black people’s experiences in America in a way that’s incredibly vivid and often heartachingly brutal. Her ability to show horrific imagery in a way that serves to educate and make the audience better understand the severity of her people’s treatment is like nothing else I’ve ever experience from a filmmaker. Apart from multiple moments that evoke tears and sobbing, there are also so many tenderly beautiful moments DuVernay crafts withing Wilkerson’s story.
Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor delivers what is quietly one of the best female leading performances of the year, battling the range of emotions Wilkerson was experiencing as her work became more serious. Ellis-Taylor manages to balance total heartache with an ability to inspire love and warmth in so many others throughout the film and some of the moments she shares with Niecy Nash and Jon Bernthal (who play Wilkerson’s cousin and husband respectively). Nash especially delivers some genuinely wonderful laughs that help keep things somewhat lighter in a story that demands a more serious tone.
Origin is truly a triumph of filmmaking and storytelling and how the two can come together to form something that reaches an even broader audience. The story and study behind Origin is one that should be taught in schools across the world so that the future generations have a better chance of changing things for the better for everyone. Caste is a word I’m sure very few people know (one I certainly didn’t know before watching) but it’s my hope that after this film releases many more will come to understand it and the systems impact on us all. We can only try to be more understanding of the world and people in it, choosing to lead with love and an open heart to truly change the hearts and minds of people. Origin is truly unlike anything you’ll ever see or experience at the movies and it’s something the whole family can experience and discuss.
Listen to the full audio review below on our podcast page, or through any of the following platforms!