Dee Rees is fast-tracking to be one of the hottest directors in Hollywood, with her in-depth visions of characters tackling weighty subjects and obstacles. First, it was Pariah, which centered on a Brooklyn teenager who was so fearful that her family would find out about her homosexuality, she led dual lives.
Then, two years ago, Rees received more acclaim, from the fruits of her labor behind the lens of Bessie. The film starred Queen Latifah as the charismatic "Empress of Blues," Bessie Smith, whose star shone bright in the 1920s and '30s. Bessie garnered a slew of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie In 2015 and a 2016 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries of Television Movie for Queen Latifah.
Rees' latest is Mudbound, another period piece, this one taking place during and a little after World War II. The film centers on two families living a farm, the white landowners (the McAllans) and their their hard-working farming remnants (the Jacksons). The ensemble cast is filled with seasoned veterans and accomplished rising stars, including Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige.
"For me, that's the exciting thing as a director," Rees said recently of the movie, which was shot in 29 days. "I love actors. I wanted this film to be like an old-fashion film we don't see anymore with this cast. For me, I work very one on one with the actors. From the beginning, I do this very one-on-one kinda workshop process and then when I'm on the set, I'm literally on the set. Whatever the frameline is, I'm two feet outside the frame. So we're all together. We're all suffering, struggling. No one is put on the spot. No one is made uncomfortable. Just allowing the actors to really explore the material, really look at each other. If you can have eye contact with someone for 60 seconds, you can almost go anywhere with them, you know."
Mudbound centers on the relationship between the Jacksons and McAllans as well as the how both families cope with having a son fighting in the war. We also see the movie tackle racism in the Mississippi Delta and how Americans were treated in Germany while abroad.
Mudbound is currently being shown in limited theaters and streaming on NetFlix.