Oscars 2018: ‘Mudbound’ makes history for Dee Rees, Rachel Morrison

The 90th Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday and “Mudbound” made history for two lesbians.

The Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel March 4 on ABC.


Two out lesbians are in the history books for their work on the Netflix film “Mudbound.”

Rachel Morrison is the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar, and Dee Rees is the first African-American woman nominated for best adapted screenplay.


Rees also directed the movie, set in the Jim Crow South and based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. Rees co-wrote the screenplay with Virgil Williams. The film tells the story of two World War II veterans – one white, one black – who return to rural Mississippi and face racism and PTSD in his own way.

Mary J. Blige stars in “Mudbound,” and has been nominated for best actress, and the song “Mighty River” that Blige performed and Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson co-wrote also has been nominated.


“This film was always about inheritance as a country, and who we are,” said Rees last year after a screening of the film at the Middleburg Film Festival, according to the Washington Post. “If you want to get beyond the surface reading of race, just think about your inheritance. Not physically, but ideas. What has been unconsciously passed on to you, and what are you unconsciously passing down? Until we can look at our inheritance and be mindful about what we’re passing on, we’re never going to turn the corner.”

Rees has said that her 2011 film “Pariah,” about a 17 year-old girl learning to accept herself as a lesbian, is semi-autobiographical.


In 2005, Rees startled her parents, first by announcing that she was quitting corporate life to attend film school at New York University, then, six months later, coming out as a lesbian, according to the Post. Rees lives in Upstate New York with her partner, author Sarah Broom.

“They really thought I was going mad or something,” Rees told the Post. “But now they’re happy and they love Sarah, and they couldn’t be prouder.”


Morrison is married, and she and her wife have one son.

“Women are so qualified they should just go for it. It’s not just about cinematography, it about believing in yourself and that anything’s possible,” Morrison told The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday morning after the nominations were announced. “I believe the job of the cinematographer is to visualize emotion — things we as women are inherently good at.”

Dee Rees, right, and Mary J. Blige on the set of “Mudbund.” Rees, who identifies as a lesbian, is the first African-American woman nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Photo: Netflix.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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