Films: Pariah

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USA, 2011, 86 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, American Indie, Drama, GLBT, Social Issues, Womens Issues
Programs: Cinema Q, Contemporary World Cinema, Special Presentations, Women + Film
Language: English

Producer: Nekisa Cooper
Editor: Mako Kamitsuna
Screenwriter: Dee Rees
Cinematographer: Bradford Young
Principal Cast: Kim Wayans, Aasha Davis, Adepero Oduye, Nina Daniels

In newcomer Dee Rees's semi-autobiographical drama, expanded from an award-winning 2007 short, a 17-year-old African-American girl faces high hurdles in the hurly-burly of Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Alike (pronounced Ah-lee-kay) is a good student with a gift for poetry, but she struggles mightily with the decision to come out as a lesbian. Pressure from peers and parents creates tension: “Each of the main characters is a pariah,” Rees asserts. “They all have their fears, desires, strengths and weaknesses.” Starring Adepero Oduye as Alike (who was also at the center of the short version), Kim Wayand and Charles Parnell as her unhappily married parents, and Pernell Walker as her best friend, Laura, Pariah explores the lonely quest of a plucky adolescent to grow up with her grace, tenacity, and humor intact, despite the long odds.

“Alice Walker has been my biggest influence as an artist,” writer-director Rees tells an interviewer, as well as the “writers of the Harlem Renissance. And especially Audre Lorde.” She quotes a memorable line from Lorde as a personal touchstone: “Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.” The young filmmaker is not totally without support, though. One of the film's executive producers is Spike Lee, who continues to champion her work. At Sundance, her cinematographer, Bradford Young, won an award for excellence.

Sponsored by Barbara Bridges, Caz Matthews, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, One Colorado Education Fund

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