Sundance Film: Pariah
She may not be a Quentin Tarantino, or a Steven Soderbergh, but director Dee Rees did not disappoint with her first Sundance Film Festival premiere Pariah. Nor was my first impression of Sundance Film Festival disappointed either. Pariah, which began as a short 3 years ago also played at Sundance, and was backed by Dee Rees NYU film professor, Spike Lee. Pariah defined as one that is despised or reject; an outcast opened with a powerful quote by Audre Lorde “Wherever the bird with no feet flew she found trees with no limbs.
This film, tells the story a 17-year-old girl in high school battling the pressures of being lesbian and the great lengths she goes to in order to conceal her true self. Unable to confront her parents, mainly her mother (who is religiously Christian; pun intended), about her situation she turns to an older friend who has deal with similar difficulties and ultimately complete isolation from her parents. However, the film goes much deeper than her struggle of her concealing her homosexuality around her parents, which she does by always having two pairs of clothing, her “straight” clothes and her “lesbian” clothes. Aside from all that Alike (Adepero Oduye), pronounced ‘ah-lee-kay’, is also battling with where she belongs in the world. Throughout the film you get this overwhelming feeling that not only did she not fit in the ‘straight’ world’, she was also confused on her position in the ‘gay’ world. Often hanging around ‘butchier’ lesbians you get the feeling she is a bit uncomfortable the way she dresses and looks, heavily influenced by her best friend who is a butch herself. None of these terms are meant to be derogatory and instead are referenced throughout the film to distinguish one thing from another.
After the film, who’s ending I will not ruin for you, the audience got a chance to ask a few questions to the director, producer, and cast. Dee Rees had a special way for the two main actresses, both playing gay parts, to really immerse themselves in their role. The cast referred to this special way as ‘homework assignments,’ which entailed getting into character and going to a lesbian club, and then a ‘straight’ spot like Dave & Busters. All the while the director and producer were in the shadows observing what part of their gay personas needed improvement. All in all this movie, which was semi-autobiographal to Dee Rees situation, was created with a lot of passion and intelligence and thus commands those emotions to surface in us all.