Based on early reviews and reactions, one of the more acclaimed titles to emerge out of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival appears to be Mudbound, Dee Rees’ period drama which stars Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken), Carey Mulligan (Suffragette) and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton). The movie – which explores racial tensions in post-World War II Mississippi – has brought in not only strong reviews, buts also very-early awards attention (same thing happened for Manchester by the Sea at last year’s Sundance, now a multiple Oscar nominee). With that, unsurprisingly, The Tracking Board reports that a strong bidding war may be underway as multiple distributors may be expressing interest in the film.
Reportedly, A24 Films (just coming off their major Oscar nominations for Moonlight) and Annapurna Pictures (Megan Ellison’s production company, on its way to becoming a distributor as well) appear to be on top. Insiders have noted that Mudbound producers are looking for deal at least in the vicinity of Sundance 2017’s top sales so far (Amazon shelled out $12 million for The Big Sick while Fox Searchlight spent $10.5 for Patti Cake$). Additionally, further details are being ironed out including plans that for whoever ends up acquiring the title in the end that an awards campaign will be part of the focus. Perhaps more so to the point that weight would also be tailored around Rees herself, an African-American woman. Rees previously directed the critically admired 2011 Sundance hit Pariah and the Emmy-winning HBO movie Bessie.
Mudbound centers around two men (Hedlund, Mitchell) who upon returning home from servicing in World War II begin to work on a farm in rural Mississippi where both attempt to adapt to adjusting to life after war as well as intense racial tensions. Mulligan co-stars as does Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Mary J. Blige, who has earned particular critical raves. The film is based on the novel by Hillary Jordan and was adapted by Rees and Virgil Williams.
Along with A24 and Annapurna, reportedly Fox Searchlight and Focus Features have been eyed as potential distributors yet both specialty outlets may come short. The Tracking Boards points out that Mudbound producers perhaps may be critical of how Fox Searchlight handled their acquisition of last year’s Sundance hit, The Birth of a Nation – the Nat Parker slavery drama opened the Park City festival with standing ovations and left with two major awards but was hit with controversy (courtesy of Parker’s past) and failed to perform well at the box office or on the awards circuit. Focus, too, perhaps may be out due to their record with another recent racially-driven film – Jeff Nichols’ Loving. While critics admired the fact-based drama, the box office was fairly slim and Loving struggled to fully connect audiences, despite a somewhat surprising Oscar nomination for lead actress Ruth Negga.