At a recent reception for her new World War II era film at the Director’s Guild of America, singer and actress Mary J. Blige admitted that she was going through some rough personal issues. However, she also stated that her role as Florence in the award-nominated film allowed her to channel some of her energy into something positive. Sitting alongside cast members Jason Clark, Rob Morgan, Garrett Hedlund and members of the production team, Blige recounted how the film had come together to tackle some difficult parts of American history.

The cinematographer Rachel Morrison found inspiration in photos taken in Mississippi during the time in which the film takes place, and one of the film’s makeup artists reflected upon how difficult it had been to keep actor Garrett Hedlund’s mustache on. Although this screening and Q&A session was packed to the gills, the film’s cast and crew have attended many other events to support its chances for Oscar gold. With many in the industry claiming that the film could become a serious contender for Best Picture this year, it’s no wonder that the team from this Netflix film is doing everything they can to increase its chances of Oscar glory.

Set on a muddy farm in Mississippi, this movie focuses on two families—the McAllans and the Jacksons. Since the McAllans are white and the Jacksons are black, the family members receive very different treatment when they go into town. However, World War II ends up changing everything for both families. Ronsel Jackson, the oldest child in his family, goes off to fight alongside General Patton. Meanwhile, Jamie McAllan serves as an Army pilot. Although both men make it home safely, they both find that they cannot leave the war behind as easily as they had thought. In current parlance, each man is afflicted with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Jamie deals with his problems by drinking them away, while Ronsel is forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe he should have stayed in Belgium with his girlfriend. With the rampant racism in their Mississippi town, Ronsel is not treated with the respect usually afforded to war heroes. As Jamie and Ronsel grow closer, talking about their experiences, some people grow suspicious. At the center of a cataclysmic climax is Mary J. Blige’s steady and loving portrayal of the matriarch Florence Jackson.