Local filmmaker vies for $150,000 prize in online contest

by Kristina Cummings
Staff writer

Nashville native and independent film director Dee Rees is vying for the grand prize in the Netflix "Find Your Voice" competition. Her film “Pariah” is one of ten semifinalists in the contest which boasts a grand prize of $150,000 as well as equipment for filming and marketing of the finished product.

Rees' journey with “Pariah” began many years ago. Born and raised in Antioch, Tenn., Rees' pursuit of a college education took her to Florida A&M University where she received a MBA. She was working at a Fortune 500 company when she decided to follow her dream of film-making, taking her to the Graduate Film Program at NYU. While a student, Dee worked as a script supervision intern for two Spike Lee projects, “When The Levees Broke” and “Inside Man.” Her film, “Pariah” began its life as her graduate thesis in year the 2006/2007 school year.

Many awards and accolades later, Rees now has the chance to finish the film she began years ago. The story of “Pariah” is one that is likely familiar to many in the LGBT community. The lead character Alike (pronounced A-Lee-Kay) is struggling to find her true identity in her private and family life. Set in New York, Alike lives loud and proud while with her friends but reverts to the traditional female roles of her strict religious upbringing when with her family. As the movie plays out, Alike becomes more and more confused over who she is as she constantly shifts from one “character” to another. Will her family ever accept the real her? Does she even know herself?

This story is personal to Rees who was raised in Metro Nashville and struggled as so many LGBT teens do with her sexual identity. In the film, Alike is constantly pressured to behave a certain way by her family, but feels the need to be herself pulling her in an opposite direction. Rees said she intends to show that it's okay to find yourself and love yourself. By performing a “role” for family, you are only delaying the inevitable emergence of your true self, she said.
The contest is based in part on votes from the public. “Pariah” has reached the semi-finals and needs enough votes to get into the finals. There are currently ten projects with trailers available for viewing to be judged online at netflixfindyourvoice.com.

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