You grow up believing you fit a certain definition, that you have a certain identity. Then one day you realize that definition is wrong -- and that to be true to yourself, you have to redefine your identity, even at the risk of alienation from society and estrangement from family and friends.

That’s a scenario familiar to most LGBT people -- the classic coming-out story. But it’s also the story of a different kind of coming-out, one documented by gay director Anthony Fabian in his first feature film, Skin.

Skin, starring Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, and Alice Krige, tells the true story of South African Sandra Laing, a black woman born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners who were unaware of their black ancestry.

Fabian, a veteran director of short films and documentaries, chose Laing’s story for his first feature after he heard a radio interview with her in 2000. “Although I didn’t realize it when I first heard this story and I didn’t fully understand why it resonated so deeply with me, it’s certainly a story that has resonated very much with the gay community,” Fabian says.

The film begins its U.S. commercial run October 30, initially in New York and Los Angeles, followed by engagements in other major cities. Leading up to its release, the 44-year-old Fabian, American-born but a longtime U.K. resident, spoke with by phone from London about Skin and its parallels to the gay experience. What special resonance did the story have for you as a gay person?
Anthony Fabian: You could say that there’s a gay paradigm for the story, because it’s about a person who’s brought up believing she’s one thing and discovers that she’s something else, confronts her parents, who are in denial and refuse to accept her as she is, and she has to go off and find her own people and her own community. Now, I reckon any gay person will be able to relate to that story. And I think needing the love and acceptance of our parents, wanting their love and acceptance, is something that we all go through and experience. All people do that, but gay people in particular do have that concern that they will be rejected when they come out to their parents.

Tags: film