One of the best-received films of this year’s festival circuit, Pariah, opens December 28 at the Elinor Bunin Film Center. Director Dee Rees recently visited the Film Society of Lincoln Center and spoke with Program Director Richard Peña about the film’s evolution from a script written longhand when Rees was an intern on a Spike Lee project to the acclaimed feature it has become.

The raw, bracing film follows a Brooklyn teenager and her family as she comes to terms with her identity. “It’s about being yourself. It’s about not checking a box,” Rees told Peña. “If you strip away the race, you strip away the sexuality, this is a film about being yourself. And everyone at some point has wrestled with that.”

In addition to enthusiastic reviews, Rees recently won the Gotham Award for breakthrough director, beating out Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground), among others.

Tickets for the film are on sale now ahead of its December 28 bow at the Film Center.

Watch the Q&A with Rees and Peña below: 

Watch the trailer for Pariah: