Dee Rees

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Dee Rees
Spike Lee, Dee Rees and David Carr (6747939623) (cropped).jpg
Rees at Sundance Times Talk in 2012
Born Diandrea Rees
(1977-02-07) February 7, 1977 (age 40)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Alma mater New York University
Florida A&M University
Occupation Director, screenwriter
Years active 2005–present

Diandrea "Dee" Rees[1] (born February 7, 1977) is an American screenwriter and director.[2][3][4] She is known for her feature films Pariah (2011), Emmy Award-winning Bessie (2015), and Mudbound (2017). The latter was adapted from the 2008 novel by the same name by Hillary Jordan. Rees has also written and directed episodes for television series Empire and When We Rise.

Early life and education[edit]

Rees was born in 1977 in Nashville, Tennessee. She attended local schools and college at Florida A&M University. For graduate school, she attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts as a film student. During this time, she worked on a script for what would later be the feature film Pariah. For her graduate thesis, she adapted the first act of the script and directed it as a short film of the same name. In 2007, the short played at 40 film festivals around the world, winning numerous accolades, including the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.


Rees' first full-length film was a documentary, Eventual Salvation (2009), aired on the Sundance Channel. The film follows her American-born, 80-year-old grandmother, Amma, as she returns to Monrovia, Liberia to rebuild her home and community. She had barely escaped a decade earlier from the devastating Liberian civil war.

Rees completed development and filming of her debut feature film, Pariah, which she has described as semi-autobiographical. It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.[5] Rees was nominated for NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing, and won the Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Director. Lisa Schwartzman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "In her fearless, world-here-I-am! debut Pariah, writer-director Dee Rees demonstrates, with simplicity and verve, that there's no substitute for authenticity".[6]

In 2015, Rees' film Bessie premiered on HBO, starring Queen Latifah as the iconic singer Bessie Smith.[7] The film was well received by critics.[8]

It also won four Primetime Emmy Awards, including the Primetime Emmy 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.

Together with Virgil Williams, Rees wrote Mudbound, a period drama adapted from the 2008 novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. Rees also directed the film, starring Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, and Mary J. Blige. The film was simultaneously released in theaters in November 2017 and on Netflix.

Personal life[edit]

Rees is a lesbian. She described Pariah as semi-autobiographical.[9]

Since at least 2017 Rees has been in a relationship with poet & writer Sarah M. Broom.[10]


Feature films[edit]

Short films[edit]

  • Orange Bow (2005)
  • Pariah (2007)
  • Colonial Gods (2009)


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
2007 Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival Best Narrative Short Pariah Won
Iris Prize Festival Iris Prize Won
Los Angeles Film Festival Audience Award – Best Short Film Won
Palm Springs International ShortFest Future Filmmaker Award Won
Best Live Action Over 15 Minutes Won
San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award – Best Short Won
Urbanworld Film Festival Best Narrative Short Won
2008 Ashland Independent Film Festival Best Student Film Won
2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Woman Director Pariah Nominated
Best Woman Screenwriter Nominated
Black Film Critics Circle Best Director Won
Best Original Screenplay Won
Black Reel Awards Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television) Nominated
Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television) Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award Won
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle Awards Best Woman Storyteller Nominated
2015 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Bessie Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Nominated
2016 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Miniseries or TV Film Won
2017 Austin Film Festival Audience Award – Marquee Feature Mudbound Won
Independent Spirit Awards Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture Pending
Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture Pending
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Adapted Screeplay Pending
Satellite Awards Best Director Pending
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Adapted Screenplay Pending
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Director Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
New York Film Critics Online Best Director Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daniels, Karu F. (May 14, 2015). "Filmmaker Dee Rees Gets Queen Latifah to Bare All in 'Bessie'". NBC News. 
  2. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (May 5, 2015). "Dee Rees, Shonda Rhimes Developing Historical Drama 'Warmth of Other Suns' For FX". Variety. 
  3. ^ Vollmer, Deenah (December 15, 2011). "How Dee Rees Built a Cocoon". Interview. 
  4. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (2014). "Not Singing the Blues". Directors Guild of America. 
  5. ^ George, Nelson (December 23, 2011). "New Directors Flesh Out Black America, All of It". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (January 17, 2015). "Pariah". Entertainment Weekly. 
  7. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (May 6, 2015). "'Bessie' Director Dee Rees on Bessie Smith's Ferocity and Facing Prejudice". Variety. 
  8. ^ "Bessie (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ Swadhin, Amita (December 29, 2011). "GLAAD Interviews 'Pariah' Director Dee Rees". GLAAD. 
  10. ^ Hornaday, Ann. "Dee Rees wanted to make 'an old-fashioned movie' and ended up with an Oscar contender". Retrieved 8 January 2018. 

External links[edit]