Friday, October 14, 2011

PARIAH: From Short to Feature


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via the gang's all QUEER on 10/13/11

I'm an Internet nerd. I search for all things queer, brown or art-related (and awesome) on the Internet and stalk them. It's what I do. So, back when Pariah was just a short, I watched it online and was completely blown away. As a newly coming out queer, this story of identity hit home in a way I never thought possible.


It was years before I heard anything about this film again.  Then, a couple of months ago, it popped up on my radar again. It had been picked up by FOCUS features and was set for a full release! Amazing! Wait. Hmmm. We all know what happens to films when "the man" gets a hold of them. They get famous stars planted in the film (that most likely are a bad fit), they lose their message…they, well…suck.

Not the case with Pariah. The director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper took time working on the film, attending Sundance's prestigious film institute, bonding with the film's actors and being mentored by the likes of Spike Lee.

The product? An amazing film. More than a story about a young, Black lesbian coming into her own, Pariah is a story about finding and identity that is true to who you really are – in spite of the opposing forces. There are more subtle nuances in the full-length feature to replace the bold statements in the short.

In the short it was obvious that the main character was struggling with where she fit in a hetero-normative lesbian paradigm. She struggled with what it means to be in the middle of butch and femme. The feature illustrates this struggle (and it's eventual resolution) more subtly and succinctly. The characters have a depth previously unattained. And did I mention that it's shot on film?! GLORIOUS FILM! And it's gorgeous.

They did, however, add a famous actress in Kim Wayans who plays the main character, Alike's mother. The thought of this addition scared me, but when I saw the depth and sincerity (not to mention GREAT acting) that Kim Wayans brought to the character, I was immediately put at ease. She did a phenomenal job.

I have to admit that the family dynamic is pretty volatile – not unlike some of the other coming out stories I've seen lately. I was shaken up at times by the jarring imagery. But the depiction is a real one. And the film brings these very real issues to light for a new, broader audience.

In short, this movie should be seen. By EVERYONE. From the humility and perseverance of the director and producer (who are, themselves, Black lesbians) to the amazing actors and the incredible message - there are a million and one reasons why this film is a must see.

PARIAH premieres in select theatres on DECEMBER  28th, 2011.

(A Special shout out to Krys Freeman for the good look on the screening and Sista2Sista & Focus Features for putting the event on.)


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