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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter


by director/co-writer Dee Rees

Mudbound is about class, friendship, and the unending struggle against “the land.” Although it’s set in the post-WWII South, I really approached this as a pioneer story and staged the narrative visually, in many ways, like a Western. The characters are pitted against a landscape that feels personified—the mud and suck and rain and sun continually working against them in their struggle to advance.

Like discussions of race and inequality in this country, the McAllan and Jackson families are perpetually mired in the brutal sludge of their own pre-conceptions about themselves and the bigoted hierarchical social order that America imposes on them. For every small breakthrough that the characters are able to eke out in their understanding of the world or in relationship with each other, there’s always a bigger reversal on the circumstantial front that plunges them back into doubt and struggle.

After reading the great initial script by Virgil Williams in 2015, I went back to read Hillary Jordan’s novel. Inspired by what was in the book, I interrogated my own personal history and used my grandmother’s journal to re-write the Jackson family anew and add tonal nuance. Infused with pieces of my own family history, the movie became deeply personal for me.  

This film not only gave me the opportunity to work with my dream ensemble cast—Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks—but also a top-notch below the line crew that included five female department heads, all of whom are the absolute best at what they do. I couldn’t be more proud of the work we did. Together, we battled through the heat, rain, and mud to shoot this film in just 29 days.

Through Mudbound, I hope we’re able to examine our ideological inheritance as a country. Until we can look at the ideas, beliefs, and silences that have been passed down to us individually, we will not be able to change what we are unconsciously passing on collectively.

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