AFI Movie Club: MUDBOUND – American Film Institute
Mudbound Film Still - Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell



MUDBOUND is directed by Dee Rees and features cinematography by Rachel Morrison, a graduate of the AFI Conservatory. The film made history at the Oscars® – Morrison became the first women nominated for Best Cinematography and Rees was the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, MUDBOUND cinematographer Rachel Morrison talks about the challenges of shooting in the mud and rain:


Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

-DID YOU KNOW the film is based on a novel by Hillary Jordan? The book was awarded the Bellwether Prize for fiction, founded by author Barbara Kingsolver and awarded biennially to an unpublished work of fiction that addresses issues of social justice?  

-DID YOU KNOW that Cassian Elwes – who is passionate about independent films (and cofounded the Horizon Award for young female directors) – wanted to find the right a director with a female point of view? That’s how it landed in the lap of Dee Rees, who was previously known for her breakout hit PARIAH.  

-DID YOU KNOW when Dee Rees came on board, she shifted the script’s focus from the white family of Henry and Laura McAllan (Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan) to a balanced two-family drama with PARIAH star Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige as the parents whose family has worked the land for generations? For her work, Dee Rees became the first black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

-DID YOU KNOW to get the right aesthetic, the filmmakers looked at old Works Progress Administration artwork; vintage black-and-white photos from Walker Evans, Robert Frank and sculptor-painter Mary Frank; Whitfield Lovell’s tone-on-tone contemporary portraiture; and Les Blank’s documentaries of the old South? 

-DID YOU KNOW that MUDBOUND set a Sundance sales record in 2017 when it sold to Netflix for $12.5 million? 

-DID YOU KNOW for her work on MUDBOUND, Rachel Morrison (AFI Class of 2006) became the first woman ever to be nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Cinematography? 

-DID YOU KNOW MUDBOUND became the first non-documentary feature distributed by a streaming service (in this instance Netflix) to be nominated for an Academy AwardÒ? 

-DID YOU KNOW “Mighty River” is the third original song Mary J. Blige has written for a movie? She co-wrote it with Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson. Her other contributions include “I Can See in Color” from PRECIOUS and “The Living Proof” from THE HELP. Thanks to MUDBOUND, Mary J. Blige became the first black woman to receive multiple Oscar® nominations in a single year – for Best Supporting Actress and Original Song. 

-DID YOU KNOW that Dee Rees asked Rachel Morrison to focus on “the idea of the American dream vs. the American reality” when preparing to shoot MUDBOUND? Consequently, Morrison researched books by Farm Security Administration photographers for reference points regarding color and composition, including the work of Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Ben Shahn. 


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-How did the film adaptation differ from Hillary Jordan’s novel? 

-Why do you think Dee Rees took creative license and shifted the perspective of the film? 

-How did the war somewhat level the playing field? Why does Ronsel feel betrayed as a black veteran? 

-What is the significance of the title? What role does the Mississippi landscape play? 

-What does the film have to say about the intractable forces of racism in the United States? How have we made progress and how do we still have much-needed work to do? 

-How does the film depict the camaraderie between Ronsel and Jamie? What did they have common that enabled them to build a friendship? 

-What did you think of Rachel Morrison’s gritty cinematography? Could you see the influence of photographers like Dorothea Lange who depicted the Social Realism movement? 

-Dee Rees became the first black woman to be nominated for the Academy AwardÒ for Best Adapted Screenplay while Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar®. What did these acknowledgments mean to you and what do they mean for the industry at large? What impact do you think it will have on emerging female filmmakers of color and female cinematographers? 

-How would you rate MUDBOUND? 


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