Reel Pieces: Mudbound Director Dee Rees to Join 92nd Street Y's Racial Justice-Themed Online Film Course

Dee Rees speaks onstage during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Night Ceremony on February 01, 2020, in Park City, Utah.
Dee Rees speaks onstage during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Night Ceremony on February 01, 2020, in Park City, Utah.
Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer (Getty Images)

With months of quarantine now behind us (and who knows how many more to go), hopefully, you’ve been indulging in some online education as well as entertainment—and starting on Sunday, New York City’s famed 92nd Street Y debuts an online course that offers both.


Continuing its popular online film course, Reel Pieces Remote: Classic Films with Annette Insdorf, 92nd Street Y is offering a four-week series focused on racial justice, and kicking off Sunday, August 9 at 8 p.m. with a screening of Dee Rees’ Oscar-nominated Mudbound, with the screenwriter-director herself as a special guest!

Per a release shared with The Root:

The August 9-30 course features four seminal films that have confronted the oppression of black people in the United States and South Africa (including two Sidney Poitier movies), as well as special guests who will join Insdorf for thought-provoking Sunday evening conversations.

Annette Insdorf is the longtime moderator of 92Y’s Reel Pieces film series, and a Columbia University professor and author whose latest book is 2017's Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes. Aside from Rees, special guests during the four-week course, which is part of the 92Y Confronts Hate initiative and open for registration now, will include: Trey Ellis, a Peabody and Emmy-winning producer, and Columbia University Screenwriting professor; Franz Jones, an actor and Associate Director of Essence for Acting; Jamal Joseph, a filmmaker, activist, and Columbia professor; and Mark Ethan Toporek, an actor, teacher, and producer of the video, “To Carry On: An Anthem of the American Immigrant Experience.”

As one might guess, there is both a syllabus and small tuition for getting schooled by talents and academics of this caliber. The cost of the four-week course is $120 (per week, that’s about the cost of two tickets to the movies most of us aren’t going to see in person right now, minus the popcorn), and the syllabus for the Aug. 9-30 course is as follows:

August 9: Mudbound (2017), directed by Dee Rees. This powerful ensemble piece juxtaposes the perspectives of two poor farming families—one black, one white—in the segregated Mississippi Delta of the 1940s. The cast includes Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke, and Jason Mitchell. Its visual richness resulted in Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

August 16: Marshall (2017), directed by Reginald Hudlin. From a script by Jacob Koskoff and Michael Koskoff, this powerful docu-drama focuses on the young Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman, who plays the brilliant lawyer as convincingly as he did James Brown and Jackie Robinson) representing the NAACP in a Connecticut case of racial tension in 1941. Co-starring Sterling K. Brown, Josh Gad, and Kate Hudson. Guest: Jamal Joseph.

August 23: Focus on Sidney Poitier, The Defiant Ones (1958), directed by Stanley Kramer. Poitier and Tony Curtis play escaped convicts fleeing a Southern prison gang. But, since they’ve been chained together, can they escape their mutual racial hatred? Co-starring Theodre Bikel in an Oscar-nominated performance. Guest: Trey Ellis

August 30: Focus on Sidney Poitier, Mandela and DeKlerk (1997), directed by Joseph Sargent. Poitier stars as Nelson Mandela in this dramatization of his 27 years in prison (filmed on Robbin Island, where Mandela was jailed) and protracted negotiations with F.W. de Klerk (Michael Caine), before he was released and became South Africa’s president. In addition to the feature Mandela and DeKlerk, Insdorf will discuss Poitier’s career with guests Mark Toporek (who has prepared clips from 9 films) and actor Franz Jones.

Again, registration is open now—so get your film buff on through the thought-provoking lens of racial justice.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?