Dee Rees To Direct Adaptation Of Iconic Opera 'Porgy And Bess'

Dee Rees' latest, The Last Thing He Wanted doesn't hit Netflix until February 21st after premiering at Sundance (I did not love it at all), but the filmmaker has already decided on what she's doing next. Deadline reports Rees will write and direct an adaptation of Porgy and Bess, the acclaimed opera from George Gershwin and writer/author DuBose Heyward.

Porgy and Bess is a love story centered on a disabled, black street beggar in Charleston, SC as he attempts to rescue Bess from her abusive lover Crown and drug dealer Sportin' Life. A film adaptation was released in 1959 that had an incredible cast including Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, and Sammy Davis Jr.

The play was controversial for playing into racial stereotypes, especially seeing that so many who have adapted it have not been African-Americans. Having Rees involved should assuage any fears of something similar happening with this version. Rees spoke to doing exactly that...

“‘Porgy and Bess’ is at its core, a love story,” Rees said. “So I’m very excited to take on the challenge of this highly venerated, iconic material and lift the architecture of this unlikely love story and re-site it at a place and moment of resistance. With the help of a terrific artistic team, my vision is to invest this community with a new agency and re-locate the characters from a fictional landscape mostly viewed from the outside to a real geography with actual historical and cultural roots, relevance, and consequence and that has been built and lived from the inside.”

“By accessing the spirit of the lyrics as they’ve been conjured, reinterpreted, and rearranged by greats like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, I’m most excited about inviting today’s brightest musical talents to lend new voice and spirit to both the joys and the frustrations of the ongoing struggle of African American citizens in this country. In this new adaptation, I’m hoping to raise the stakes for our hero and heroine, giving them full expression of existence placing emphasis not just on the circumstantial but on their rich inner lives and emotional pasts. It’s thrilling to work with the legendary producer, Irwin Winkler, and the visionary team at MGM Studios and be a part of the studio’s rich musical legacy.”