Autumn 2012 Features series
October 28, 2012 at 7:00pm
October 28, 2012 at 4:00pm
Directed by Dee Rees
Screenplay by Dee Rees
Starring Aasha Davis, Kim Wayans and Adepero Oduye
Rated 14A ·
A world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the contemporary drama Pariah is the feature-length expansion of writer/director Dee Rees’ award-winning 2007 short film Pariah. Spike Lee is among the feature’s executive producers. At Sundance, cinematographer Bradford Young was honored with the Excellence in Cinematography Award.
Adepero Oduye, who had earlier starred in the short film, portrays Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents Audrey (Kim Wyans) and Arthur (Charles Parnell) and younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighbourhood. She has a flair for poetry, and is a good student at her local high school.
Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the sometimes boisterous support of her best friend, out lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike is especially eager to find a girlfriend. At home, her parents’ marriage is strained and there is further tension in the household whenever Alike’s development becomes a topic of discussion. Pressed by her mother into making the acquaintance of a colleague’s daughter, Bina (Aasha Davis), Alike finds Bina to be unexpectedly refreshing to socialize with.
Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor and tenacity – sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward.
“If there’s anything negative about Pariah, it would be that title, which sends the unfortunate signal that audiences are in for a difficult sit: one of those dark movies that, will be Hard to Watch. Instead, this invigoratingly fresh, optimistic film – which features the breathtaking debuts of director Dee Rees and leading lady Adepero Oduye – plunges the audience into a world that’s both tough and tender, vivid and grim, drenched in poetry and music and pain and discovery. In other words, Pariah feels a lot like life, at its most confusing, contradictory and exhilarating… Its frank, unfettered view of female sexuality recalls Spike Lee’s breakout film, She’s Gotta Have It. Another movie Pariah invites comparison to is Precious, in which another intrepid young heroine finds elusive self-worth through learning. Unlike that film, which some viewers considered a showcase for dismaying stereotypes about black pathology and poverty,Pariah presents a sorely needed view of an intact middle-class black family that, while deeply flawed, forms a solid and caring foundation for Alike’s most discomfiting explorations.” (Ann Hornaday,Washington Post)
“In her fearless, world-here-I-am! debut Pariah, writer/director Dee Rees demonstrates, with simplicity and verve, that there’s no substitute for authenticity. Drawing on autobiographical experience, Rees has created the unforgettable Alike. By day, she’s a ‘good’ girl in girl clothes, squirming under the anxious urgings of her religious mother, who’s a stickler for propriety, to be more ‘feminine.’ Alike’s father, played by Charles Parnell, is more compassionate but still willfully blind to his daughter’s true self. By night, abetted by her tougher, more experienced friend Laura, the virginal Alike – who really just pines for a nice girlfriend – dresses butch, calls herself Lee, and thrills to the secret freedom of underground girl clubs. Rees presents this vivid, hidden culture with raw honesty: There’s no mincing of words, deeds, or feelings among these believable young women, dancing and flirting to the beat of club music and enjoying their own sexuality – at least underground.” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)