Jon Bernthal and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor in a scene from “Origin.” (Neon)

Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” echoes documentary-style moments, a fitting element given the film’s pursuit of truth within the cinematic art form.

Adapted from Isabel Wilkerson’s impactful nonfiction work, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” the film intertwines American racism, Nazi persecution of Jews, and India’s caste system. Under DuVernay’s adept direction, it evolves into a compelling historical mystery.

DuVernay brings us to the core by unveiling Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor), the narrative’s central figure. This marks a pivotal chapter in her personal odyssey as she immerses herself in the subject while grappling with her own life’s unraveling.

She navigates us through history, weaving case studies from her research—sometimes drawn out, other times glimpsed fleetingly. The aspirations are lofty, and when achieved (which mostly holds true), the resonance is deep.

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“Origin” begins with the slow buildup to Trayvon Martin’s murder (Myles Frost) by George Zimmerman in 2012. I’ve noticed some colleagues using the word “killing,” but I object vehemently. The word is murder. Plain and simple. Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin.

Wilkerson is fatigued—an internal feeling familiar to many writers—and she wants (no, needs) a break after writing an award-winning book. Because of her brilliance, she is approached by one of her editors about a story on Martin’s murder, but she initially declines.

However, something snaps inside her after listening to Zimmerman’s 911 call recordings and contemplating how a Latino man murdered an African American teen in a gross, misguided attempt to protect a white neighborhood. In a heart-wrenching realization, similar to what many of us also experienced, we understand that this isn’t just old-fashioned, black-versus-white racism. No, this is deeper and closer to the core of the problem.

She reflects: “Racism as the primary language to understand everything is insufficient,” Wilkerson tells a few colleagues. “Everything can’t be racist.” Something else, something deeper, is at work here.” And regrettably, she’s right.

Then, the writer embarks on a profound journey to comprehend the ways different cultures have established social hierarchies. To elucidate this point for all of us, DuVernay takes us on a historical odyssey.

She offers us a glimpse into the life of August Landmesser (Finn Wittrock), a German shipyard worker remembered as the man who refused to give the Nazi salute in an iconic 1935 crowd photo. Despite being a member of the Nazi party years earlier, he got engaged to a Jewish woman, Irma Eckler (Victoria Pedretti), which violated Nazi miscegenation laws modeled after American laws.

Later, the narrative delves into the story of African American anthropologist Allison Davis (Isha Blaaker), who, along with his wife and colleagues Burleigh and Mary Gardner, went undercover in Jim Crow–era Natchez, Mississippi, to study social divisions on both sides of the racial divide.

I understand it’s a lot to absorb. The same can be said for the movie as well. DuVernay took a chance, but she seems eager to showcase events in Wilkerson’s life that influenced her research.

The writer is in the process of admitting her elderly and ailing mother into a nursing home and grappling with the decision. She’s married to Brett Hamilton, a white man (Jon Bernthal), a union that would have been forbidden just a few decades earlier.

Wilkerson has her ideas and opinions swirling in her head, impacting her world in the most unexpected ways. She encounters a plumber (Nick Offerman) wearing a Make America Great Again hat. Eventually, she visits Germany and debates with a friend about the differences between the Nazi extermination of Jews and the American slave trade. She eventually finds answers in India’s caste system and in the treatment of Dalits, once known as “untouchables”—the lowest rung of the country’s social hierarchy, often tasked with cleaning toilets with their bare hands.

DuVernay might face criticism for evoking strong emotions, yet her fearlessness in embracing sentimentality serves a purpose—she’s resolute about her artistic vision. While the film’s structure might not resonate with everyone, DuVernay’s focus on reasserting these characters’ humanity and, consequently, our own, is essential to her storytelling.

Ava DuVernay’s film, “Origin” opens Jan. 19.,;;/