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Coming out can be one of the hardest things to do in life. But for Dee Rees, coming out was harder still: not only did her parents stop speaking to her for a while, she also had trouble fitting in with the gay community. In-between worlds, Dee felt like a pariah. Which, not so coincidentally, is the name of her first feature film.
Dee wrote the script for what was originally a short film while working as an intern for Spike Lee. The story about a teenage girl trying to juggle identities, both as a butch lesbian and a good daughter in a conservative family, was heartbreaking, but also triumphant: It burned through the festival circuit, winning a couple-dozen awards for Best Short Film. It was a vindication for Dee, an MBA grad who quit the business world to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker. Then, with some coaching from Spike himself, Dee expanded 'Pariah' into a full-length movie, which played at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
But the big questions raised in original 'Pariah' remain: how can parents really know what's best for their kids? And how do you navigate those precarious first steps out of the closet?