On Saturday, August 12, writer-director Dee Rees, whose film “Mudbound” (November 17) scored Sundance’s biggest sale to Netflix ($12.5 million), watched television coverage of the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia with growing horror. That night, she stayed up late to write her Sundance Next Fest Vanguard Award acceptance speech for the next day, googling, emailing and calling relatives to collect the numbers she needed.
And on Sunday evening, Rees’ Sundance Next Fest speech roused tears and cheers. She counted down the 90 years since the United Artists theatre opened next door, the 47 years since United Artists opened Ossie Davis’s first film, the 204 days since a demagog took office, the 34 hours since white supremacists terrorists openly brawled in the streets with virtual impunity in Charlottesville, continuing our “selectively omitted, pathologically violent history,” 13 years since Rees came out, 14 years since she quit corporate life to become a filmmaker, and 10 years since she walked into the Sundance Institute, “with gratitude for affirming that my story mattered and creating a place where I can add my own story to the zeitgeist.”
At this point, she choked up.
“It has been eight years since I wrapped production on my first film ‘Pariah’ and 392 days since I wrapped my latest film ‘Mudbound,” she concluded. “Our voices are all that we have.” Watch her speech below.