Dee Rees is a screenwriter and director known for her feature films Pariah, Bessie, Mudbound and The Last Thing He Wanted. Rees has also written and directed episodes for television series including Empire, When We Rise, and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.
She has written and directed several short films, including Orange Bow. The Nashville native’s last short film, Colonial Gods, aired on the BBC in the fall of 2009. The short chronicles a complicated friendship between a Somali man and a Nigerian man, set against the backdrop of gentrification in the small immigrant community in Cardiff, Wales known as Tiger Bay.
Pariah, completed in 2007, screened at over 40 festivals worldwide (including Sundance) and garnered 25 Best Short awards. Additionally, Pariah was a finalist for the 2009 Sundance/NHK International Award. Rees was also selected as a 2008 Tribeca Institute/Renew Media Arts Fellow for her work; was chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for 2008; and was nominated for a USA Fellowship in 2009.
Pariah has since been expanded into the feature length film Pariah, which had its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It was honored with the Festival’s Excellence in Cinematography Award.
Prior to making Pariah, Rees directed a documentary feature, Eventual Salvation. The film, which she also edited, received a 2007 Sundance Documentary Fund Grant and premiered on the Sundance Channel in October 2009. It follows her grandmother’s return to Liberia to help rebuild a community following the country’s civil war.
She previously worked as a script supervision intern on Spike Lee’s epic documentary When the Levees Broke and feature Inside Man. At Tisch, Spike Lee was Rees professor and mentor. She earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Florida A&M University.
In 2015, Rees' film Bessie premiered on HBO, starring Queen Latifah as the iconic singer Bessie Smith. The film was well received by critics. It won four Primetime Emmy Awards, including the award for Outstanding Television Movie. Rees was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special. She was the recipient of the 2016 Director's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Miniseries as well as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Television Movie.
In 2018, Dee became the the first black woman to be nominated for any Academy Award in a writing category and the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for her highly-acclaimed film Mudbound. The film, which stars Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan and Mary J. Blige, tells the story of two men returning home from World War II, struggling to deal with racism and post-war life. After being shown at Sundance in 2017, Mudbound became the highest purchase of the festival, being bought for $12.5 million by Netflix.
Mudbound contains many personal connections for Rees, such as her grandfathers' experiences in the army and her grandmother who aspired to be a stenographer, an ambition shared with one of the characters in the film. Rees used her grandmother's journal to help guide her directing process. It contained family photographs of their slave ancestors, with the names of who fought in wars.
Most recently, Rees directed The Last Thing He Wanted, a political thriller film based upon the novel of the same name by Joan Didion.
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Please Note: All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Dee Rees for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Dee Rees speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.
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