Watch the Exclusive First Clip for the Rachel Dolezal Documentary


In the summer of 2015, Rachel Dolezal exploded out of anonymity, transforming from a public figure of limited local impact — a civil-rights activist and branch president of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington — into one of the millennium’s most racially controversial people. At issue: the revelation that she lied for years about her African-American ancestry, and had been born to European-American parents. What’s more, Dolezal continued to stoke outrage by refusing to back down on her self-identification as “trans-black.” Some people called her a race traitor. Others called her “mentally ill.” And others lambasted the gross overstep of Dolezal’s cultural appropriations, her use of “blackface,” and remarks that “race is a social construct.”

Filmmaker Laura Brownson (behind the award-winning 2011 documentary Lemon) spent two years filming Dolezal and her two sons to reveal the complex personal motives behind Dolezal’s transracial identity — while also chronicling the fury and disapproval that continue to follow her every move. And next month, the director’s vérité-style feature documentary The Rachel Divide is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival before arriving on Netflix on April 27. “In making the film, I came to a deeper understanding of the raw nerve that Rachel hits in our society, but I also learned that her motivations to identify as she does are far more complicated than most realize,” Brownson tells Vulture. “Regardless of how people feel about Rachel, I hope the film will challenge audiences to think more deeply about race and identity in America.”

Watch an Exclusive Clip for the Rachel Dolezal Documentary