Dee Rees, the writer and director of one of 2011’s standout feature films Pariah, was recently named breakthrough director at the Gotham Awards. An alumna of NYU’s graduate film program and a 2008 Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow, Rees has written and directed several short films, including Orange Bow and Pariah. The latter, completed in 2007, screened at over 40 festivals worldwide (including Sundance), garnered 25 Best Short awards and was a finalist for the 2009 Sundance/NHK International Award. Rees was also selected as a 2008 Tribeca Institute/Renew Media Arts Fellow for her work, was chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for 2008, and was nominated for a USA Fellowship in 2009. Rees developed Pariah into a full length feature. The film, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and released in 2011 by Focus Features, was nominated for several Independent Spirit Awards. The Nashville native’s recent short film, Colonial Gods, which chronicles a complicated friendship between a Somali and a Nigerian, aired on the BBC in the fall of 2009. Prior to making Pariah, Rees directed a documentary feature, Eventual Salvation. The film, which she also edited, premiered on the Sundance Channel in October 2009. It follows her grandmother’s return to Liberia to help rebuild a community following the country’s civil war.
Nekisa Cooper, producer of Pariah, is a 2008 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellow and represented the Independent Filmmaker Project at the 2009 Cinemart/Rotterdam Producing Lab. Cooper has also worked on the short films Orange Bow (as co-producer) and Colonial Gods, and is currently in post-production on the feature documentary La muñeca fea, a Creative Promise Award winner from the 2009 Tribeca All Access Program and 2010 Elizabeth Peña Fellowship Award Winner through Film Independent. The film focuses on a group of elderly sex workers who live together in Mexico City. Before she became a producer, Cooper had a successful career working in brand management for such companies as Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, and General Electric, and held assistant coaching positions for women’s basketball on the Division I, Division III, and high school levels. She earned a BA from The College of William & Mary and an MBA in marketing from Clark Atlanta University.