Why Pariah Is A Must-See Film
Powerful and poignant, Pariah is that rare film that not only speaks to a generation grappling with sexual identity issues, societal pressure and family acceptance, it breathes life into its subject matter so vividly that the viewer is affected well after the credits have run.
A world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the contemporary drama is the feature-length expansion of writer/director Dee Rees’ award-winning 2007 short film of the same name, with Spike Lee among the feature’s executive producers. While set in New York City, we know the emotional story of 17-year-old Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay) is currently playing out in big cities and small towns across America (and the rest of the world). Adepero Oduye is remarkable as the soft and understated Alike, who lives with her parents Audrey and Arthur (impressive performances by Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse). She has a flair for poetry, is a good student and is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the boisterous support of her best friend, out lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike is especially eager to find her first 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. Getting visibly braver by each scene, Alike is striving to get through adolescence with grace, humor and tenacity—sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward.
Pariah opens in theaters December 28 in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The soundtrack (featuring Khia, Tamar-kali and more) is available now on iTunes.