While in film school at NYU, Dee Rees directed a short film called Pariah that was essentially the first act of a feature script she was developing. Spike Lee, her professor and mentor, helped her get the feature version financed and in 2011, she released it to much acclaim. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our 10 Year Anniversary series with Rees’ feature version of her short film Pariah.
There’s a lot to discuss about Pariah, from the performances to the filmmaking style.
We love all of the performances in this film, but Adepero Oduye as Alike, our protagonist, is the heart of this film. Her journey of coming out as a lesbian is a powerful one, and we’re right along the ride with her from the start of the film. But all the performances in Pariah are great. Pernell Walker as Alike’s best friend Laura. Aasha Davis as her first love Bina. Charles Parnell and Kim Wayans as her parents. Everyone gets story time and they sell this journey.
Pariah is a strong story because Rees doesn’t make the parents typical antagonists who aren’t happy with her as a lesbian. We get a sense of their world and can understand their perspective, even if we don’t agree with them. We also get a strong sense of the family world and connections to church, not to mention Dad’s affair. All of this helps us feel like we understand the family dynamics.
Rees and her cinematographer Bradford Young crafted a personal, intimate film. The film is beautiful to look at with many gorgeous closeups. It also has raw energy in the scenes that require it. All told, it’s clear right out of the gate that Rees is a filmmaker pushing honesty and truth with her first film in a visually exciting way.
Pariah is a powerful film that delivers and rightfully holds up as one of the great LGBTQ films. We have a great time talking about it, so check it out then tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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