One of the big hits at the Sundance Film Festival this year was "Pariah", the film written and directed by Dee Rees that chronicles the life of a 17-year-old African-American woman as she comes out and embraces her identity as a lesbian.

On National Coming Out Day last week, interviewed Rees about her own coming out experience, and how that influenced the film she would later go on to write and direct:

"As I was coming into my sexuality, I started to become comfortable with who I was. But I didn’t know how to express that," says the 34-year-old filmmaker.  "Some of the awe and anxiety the lead character feels were things I experienced when I was coming out, coming into this world."

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Rees was amazed to see teenage girls totally out and proud when she came to New York. "Even if I had figured out my sexuality at that age, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to be that person, and that is how the idea for the film came about," she says. Not only is the film "semi-autobiographical," the title has a personal connection. A pariah is a person without status, a rejected member of society, an outcast. It is a term Rees used to describe herself when she was coming out in her late ’20s. …

Rees admits the principal conflicts in the film are similar to her own. "Parental conflict is something I really went through," she says. "When I came out, my parents weren’t accepting." Once they realized that she wasn’t going through a "phase," her parents staged interventions. "For a few months, they sent emails, cards, letters and Bible verses to make me change," she says. "They felt guilty because they thought they had done something wrong; I felt guilty becuase I was causing so much pain." She cut off communication, alienating herself, but eventually started talking to them again. "Things are better now."

Focus Features (owned by NBC Universal) purchased Rees’ film after its Sundance premiere for a reported million dollars. The film will be at selected theaters December 28, 2011

h/t Rod 2. 0