Out of Exile: Daniel's Story
Director: Nonny de la Peña


When Daniel Ashley Pierce is confronted about his sexual orientation by his family in a “religious intervention,” the scene turns dramatic and violent. This piece recreates the event using video captured by Daniel at the time.

Nonny de la Peña, one of the true pioneers of VR, has gone even deeper at this year's New Frontier with her latest film, the moving and innovative Out of Exile: Daniel's Story. As she has in the past with such groundbreaking projects as Hunger in Los Angeles, Project Syria, Kiya and Across the Line, de la Peña constructs the first part of Out of Exile around an actual audio recording, made by Daniel Ashley Pierce, a young man whose family verbally and physically accosted him about being gay before kicking him out of the house.

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The inspiration for the film came when de la Peña was informed by the nonprofit True Colors Fund that 40 percent of homeless youth in America identify as LGBTQ and pointed her in the direction of Daniel's story. Part one of the piece involves a meticulously re-created VR rendering of the family living room, which was the setting for the violent encounter between Daniel and his family. In this gripping scene, there is no escape from being implicated in the events themselves.

Upon multiple viewings, taking full advantage of the film's volumetric "walk-around" capabilities, I made a point of moving close to different characters in the piece, not restricting myself to simply looking at the different people but trying to see things more literally from their perspective. While there was never any doubt where my sympathies lay in the events taking place, I did find it striking that once I moved closer to different people, I was able to see things more from their perspective than if I had simply stood off to the side and looked at them as mere objects. This experience highlights what is perhaps the most fundamental and profound breakthrough of the VR medium itself.

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In part two, de la Peña incorporates new hologram technology from 8i to record real people and put them in virtual environments. In this section, Daniel's story expands and becomes more universal as several other LGBTQ homeless youth are recorded telling their stories.

With Out of Exile, de la Pena has once again proven that no other filmmaker can match her ability to combine cutting-edge technology with immersive, rigorous journalism.