Top prize for lesbian coming of age film

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A drama about a teenage African-American lesbian has won a £25,000 award.

Pariah was directed by Dee Rees, an American director who originally wrote it as a semi-autobiographical feature-length piece.

The movie already made a stir on the American short film circuit as well as winning the best narrative short award at the Newfest film festival in New York.

The Iris award is the largest ever prize given for a gay and lesbian short film and Pariah was the best entry from thirty shortlisted at the climax of a three day film festival in Cardiff.

The film is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year old girl struggling to find her sexual identity.

She juggles the life she has with her gay friends and the world of her family and conservative parents, who she keeps her sexuality a secret from.

Ms Rees collaborated with her girlfriend Nekisa Cooper, who produced the 27-minute film.

The Iris prize is a award which aims “to recognise, celebrate and promote gay and lesbian moving image content, which will also promote tolerance, acceptance and further understanding of the credibility and business of gay and lesbian filmmaking.”

Gay and lesbian cinema has undergone big changes in the last 20 years, and the success of Brokeback Mountain put it firmly mainstream with box office success and Oscar acceptance.

In the UK, the British Film Institute (BFI) has annually held the London Lesbian and Gay Festival since 1986, and is now the third biggest film festival in the UK.