It’s wonderful to see Dee Rees become increasingly in demand. After her feature film debut “Pariah” in 2011, it wasn’t entirely clear what would come next for her, and the kind of career she would have in an industry seemingly without much interest in the contributions of and visibility for black women directors – especially at the studio level. Conditions have certainly improved since then, but there’s still much progress to be made.
Four years after “Pariah’s” release, Rees directed “Bessie” (starring Queen Latifah) for HBO, and since then, she’s been busier than ever, directing episodes of TV series like “Empire,” and the miniseries “When We Rise,” as well as a much-buzzed about feature film in “Mudbound” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year and was picked up by Netflix, with some critics calling it an early 2018 Oscar contender. Most recently, she inked a deal with Blumhouse Productions to develop a horror movie centered around a black lesbian couple in rural America; and today we learned that she’s attached to direct an episode of the much-anticipated “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” 10-episode sci-fi anthology series featuring pointed, thrilling stand-alone stories (each written and directed by different writers and directors, and starring different actors) all inspired by Philip K. Dick’s renowned shorts stories.
Rees will direct (and write) the episode titled “Kill All Others,” which centers on the hanging of a man from a lamppost, apparently murdered and inexplicably ignored by passersby, after a politician makes a shocking statement encouraging violence. When one man dares to question the situation he becomes an instant target.
The episode stars Vera Farmiga, Mel Rodriguez, Jason Mitchell (from “Straight Outta Compton”), Glenn Morshower and Sarah Brown.
A collaboration between the UK’s Channel 4 and Amazon Prime Video for the U.S., the anthology series will air later this year (no exact date has been announced at this time).
I should note that Rees, a Philip K. Dick (PKD) fan, is also developing an adaption of the author’s novel “Martian Time-Slip,” which was given to her by Dick’s estate, basically for free. We reported on this 3 years ago when Rees revealed the project in a New York Times interview featuring up-and-coming filmmakers.
The novel centers on a human colony on Mars. As of our last report on this, Rees is scripting the adaptation and will direct as well, with the blessings of the PKD estate, with Isa Dick Hackett, daughter of PKD, will produce the film for her Electric Shepherd Productions, which she runs along with her siblings.
Electric Shepherd also produced “The Adjustment Bureau” – the 2011 action/thriller loosely based on the PKD’s short story, “Adjustment Team.”
No word on whether “Martian Time-Slip” is still on Ree’s to-do list; I imagine financing has and will be a struggle. But that might change as her industry stature evolves.
Also no word on the status of these other Rees projects we previously announced: an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s 2012 novel “Home” which tells the story of a 24-year-old Korean War veteran, and his reluctant journey home. And there’s the crime thriller “Bolo,” initially set up at Focus Features, but the Focus Features of old is no more. At one time, Thandie Newton was said to be attached to the film which centers on a Memphis police officer who’s also black and lesbian. In addition, Rees was to team up with Viola Davis for an HBO series, but details on it were never made public.
Definitely in the works and currently filming is the anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” for which Rees is directing an episode, set to premiere on Channel 4 (UK) and Amazon Prime (US) this fall.
In addition to the cast members Rees will direct, the series cast also includes Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Mireille Enos, Anna Paquin, Terrence Howard, Timothy Spall, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Jack Reynor, Benedict Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, and Bryan Cranston who also serves as an executive producer on the series.