Lesbian filmmaker Dee Rees made a powerful speech at the Sundance NEXT Fest this week. While accepting the Sundance Institute Vanguard Award, Rees turned to vocal activism.
Sundance NEXT is the Los Angeles counterpart to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
‘Our position in the universe is elastic,’ she says. ‘It’s hard to know exactly where we are and possible to measure progress except in relation to what happened just before.’
Rees is an openly out storyteller. Her first feature film, 2011’s Pariah, is about a teenage girl in Brooklyn coming to terms with her own sexuality. She told GLAAD the film is semi-autobiographical. The film won the NAACP Image Award for Best Independent Motion Picture.
Her next film, Mudbound, is about two intersecting families, one white and one black, in Mississippi during World War II.
In her speech, Rees gives a timeline of racial and LGBTI progress and how far things still need to go.
‘It has been 63 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, but it’s only been 28 years since I was bused across town to middle schools as part of an integration program in Nashville, Tennessee.’
She gets emotional when thanking Sundance ‘for affirming that my story mattered and empowering me to tell it’.
‘”Our country has changed,” Chief Roberts says,’ she says near the end of her speech. ‘But we can only go by the evidence and we know what happens next. Telling stories is one way to defend against next.’
The whole moment is powerful, moving, and definitely worth six-and-a-half minutes.