Director Dee Rees Talks ‘Mudbound,’ Whiteness As Currency & Her Filmmaking Process [Interview]

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for Netflix

Dee Rees’ highly anticipated Netflix project, Mudbound, has her name on everyone’s radar.

Mudbound, Dee Rees’ epic film set in post-World War II Mississippi, is about many things. It is about two families who struggle for survival—the McAllans, who are white and own a tenant farm, and the Jacksons, who are black and work the land the McAllans own.

It is about the exploration of “whiteness as currency and how it is spent,” as Rees puts it. It is about how husbands and wives, fathers and sons, black women and white women, black men and white men, white men and black women negotiate power. It is about war, both at home and abroad. It is about the lingering trauma from those conflicts.

But the other, subtler thread throughout the film is about how love sustains a family and a community. And not the notion of love that has been twisted into saccharine, largely empty gestures that has been commodified, but the notion of love as an act of resistance; the kind of love that has sustained black people in America during some of our worst and most trying times.

WATCH: New ‘Mudbound’ Trailer Transports Cinephiles To WWII-Era South

It is a timely reminder as we hear dog-whistle catchphrases from the current president and his administration, as we watch history repeat itself to nauseating effect in Sanford, Florida; Cleveland; Chicago; Ferguson; Baltimore, New York, Minneapolis, Oakland, and Charlottesville.

With stirring performances by a strong ensemble cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Rob Morgan; intimate, hand-held cinematography by Rachel Morrison; and a haunting score that combines gospel vocals with classical music elements by Tamar-kali, Rees brings us fully into this world and into these characters’ lives.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Dee Rees by phone where she talked more about the highly anticipated film and her filmmaking process.

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