UPDATED with video: Writer-director Dee Rees gave an electric speech while receiving the Robert Altman award for Mudbound at the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

The Robert Altman award is presented to the ensemble cast, director and casting director of a film. It is named after director, screenwriter, and producer Altman and was first given at the 2008 award ceremony.

Here is her speech:

I know that as Independent Filmmakers, as the so-called Rebels, as the Outsiders creating without respect to means or access…

I know that we, of all makers, are far, far beyond any Identity Tokenism or Snobbery of Form 

In both production and distribution

Because we know that cinema lies not in

A strip of celluloid 

A length of magnetic tape

Nor across the blind plain of an image sensor 

No, we know that

Cinema lies in absorbing , electrifying Performances by committed actors 

That make audiences feel, that make them think, make them observe themselves and world around them in a more expansive way

Like Rob Morgan’s intelligent, deliberate, emotionally exquisite performance of Hap Jackson, a man whose capabilities, ambition and work ethic are continually undone by the ancient and overlapping systems of social and economic oppression that still exist today 

We know that cinema lies in the thoughtful and narrative Composition and Choreography of subject, movement, color, and light 

Like  Rachel Morrison’s compelling, sculptural,  humanistic photography that elevates reality into a visceral, highly textured symphony of feeling

We–radical thinkers that we are, know that cinema has nothing to do with 

  • a Smartphone screen
  • a Television screen
  • nor a 52 foot high IMAX screen

We know that it has everything to do with the complicated art of montage, like Mako Kamitsuna’s literary and perfectly fluid interweaving of seven distinct character’s voices and worldview into one single sweeping, and cohesive narrative 

And that it has everything to do with the establishment of mood, tone, and the unspoken subtext, like in Tamar-kali’s breathinghaunting, omniscient score that summon the unseen ancestors with every frame. The blood beneath the mud.

We know that cinema is in the wizened authenticity of David Bomba’s sets that never ever feel like sets 

Cinema is in the just-so bend in the sweat-stained brim of a gray felt hat of Michael T. Boyd’s costume design. 

It’s in the faded hope of pastel domesticity in Laura’s dress

It’s at the tip of Angie Well’s make up brush

It’s in Virgil William’s illuminating keystroke, deft turn of chatacter

It’s in Jason Clarke’s limping run across a road 

It’s in Garrett Hedlund’s guilty slump

It’s in Jonathan Bank’s sneer

It is in the corners of Mary J Blige’s un-smile beneath  wary eyes 

It’s in Carey Mulligan’s chew of a cuticle 

It is in Jason Mitchell’s gone, long gone gaze across an impossible field 

Mudbound is cinema

And we are grateful for this recognition, for this Robert Altman award and all that it signifies

But We–all of us in this room–broad thinkers that we are know that this, or any other award, valuation, critique of any artistic work is purely subjective

Is not about the work itself 

Is not a meritocracy 

Because nothing diminishes nor enhances  the value of the work except the work itself 

That’s what we put onscreen 

Thank you to Ted Sarandos for taking our work and letting it be seen, 

Thank you Film Independent for acknowledging it’s existence

Thank you to Billy Hopkins and Ashley Ingram for helping me to put together this extraordinary cast

And thank you to Cassian Elwes, to MACRO, to Armory and our league producers for equipping us with the tools to create it.