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  • This is a tough little movie. Admittedly, a lot of people will be put off by the subject matter. They may not have even chosen to watch it, like I almost did, because of the synopsis which calls this a film about a "teenager's desperate search for sexual expression". My first thought was, "haven't we seen this a million times before." But I gave it a chance and I'm quite glad that I did.

    At the beginning of the film, I thought I might have made a mistake. The opening sequence of the movie, and especially the lyrics of the song that is playing, reminded me of those movies made for teenage boys that begin with some sex scene to get them to pay attention to the rest of the film. Had I directed it, I would have lured the viewer in more carefully. However, maybe the director wanted to confront the viewer up front. I think this, combined with the synopsis, was simply bad marketing.

    Anyway, if you hang in there and stay with it, the film pays off in the end. This is not a film about lesbianism or the trials of urban black families. This is a film about everyone. It is a film about being different from those around you. It just happens that this difference is lesbianism and this setting is a black community. Two distinct aspects of individualism are focused on here. The first is on that which makes each person unique, while the second is on that which keeps each person self-absorbed. Everyone in this film wants appreciation, understanding, and attention, yet, they are unable to see these needs in others.

    The acting is superb. I could find no shortcomings in any of the actors. The relationships were believable, the characters, sympathetic, the storyline, strong. So, overlook the synopsis and the opening scenes and you will not be disappointed in this film. You may even wonder why it didn't receive more awards than it did.
  • Such a shame this is so criminally under-seen. What frustrates me the most is this could have and should have been seen by more people. Focus Features really messed up the release of this one. If handled better I could have seen newcomer Adepero Oduye's acclaimed performance as Alike earning her an Academy Award nomination. She's wonderful in the lead role. Even comedy actress (and sister to the Wayans brothers) Kim Wayans may have scored a Supporting Actress nomination for her serious turn as Alike's misguided mother. She makes the transition from comedy to a serious role amazingly well (not unlike Mo'Nique's turn in Precious, though I prefer this less showy role to hers).

    I highly recommend seeking this out. It's a great drama with a star-making performance by Adepero Oduye.
  • Newcomer Adepero Oduye plays Alike (Le for short), a seventeen-year old high-schooler living in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. She's smart and creative, much to the approval of her parents; but to their dismay, unbeknownst to them (or due to their unwillingness to accept and/or approve), she's also a lesbian with a masculine persona, or simply a Pariah.

    Alike lives with her much more girly sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) and parents. Kim Wayans, best down for her broad comic characterizations from the 1990's In Living Color, shows off her dramatic chops as Alike's mother Audrey, a Christian-valued matriarch who doesn't have so much an agenda, but an affliction. She wants the best for her daughters, but her religious subscription limits her ability to love her eldest daughter completely. Unlike most black men in films about black women, Alike's father Arthur (a stalwart, yet relaxed Charles Parnell) doesn't always have his daughter's (or wife's) best intentions in mind, but he's neither shiftless, emasculated, physically abusive or non-existent as is every man in The Color Purple and the like.

    In an ironic twist, Audrey introduces Alike to the daughter of a coworker, in hopes of steering her away from the butch influence of her best friend Laura (a cool, thoughtful Pernell Walker). Though her time with Bina (Aasha Davis) assumes a predictable route, it doesn't end as one might expect. To boot, the magnetic personalities of the characters are sufficient enough to make the trip worth it. As well, their shared love of alternative music provides one of the best film soundtracks in quite some time.

    In the film's social environment, women who dress as men and love other women are considered pariahs. Feminine lesbians don't fare much better, but they, as well as others, view themselves as bisexuals who are going through a phase. They are not a threat, because of their non-confrontational gender qualities and the belief is that they'll eventually assume a more traditional place in society. It's one of the many conundrums that test Alike and help her become a stronger and better person, as well as writer.

    The inevitable confrontation scene between Alike and her folks arrives unannounced without much of a consistent buildup. Yet, steering away from cheap sentimentality, it also avoids any hints of condensation. There are no martyrs or villains, only fully rounded characters.

    It's difficult not to compare Pariah to the recent Precious, as there are so few films made about African-American women. Lee Daniel's popular directorial effort was dark, gritty and pulled no punches. And while it over-indulged in a broad range of emotions, it saved face with its sharp social commentary. However, along with the newly released The Help, one had to wonder if the best the marketplace had to offer in intelligent fare about black women is located at the lower rungs of society. It's not that those films are unacceptable and not to be appreciated, but the ghettoization gets to be monotonous.

    That being said, Pariah's setting doesn't necessarily break the cycle, but it's a fine example of compelling storytelling. Directer Dee Rees is an exciting new filmmaker with great promise. Moving beyond her personalized debut, I stand in anticipation of where she will go from here.
  • For me there is no denying it that this was simply being one great, little movie! I can see why some people love it but I can also see why some would hate it. That's the curse and blessing of an independent movie I guess; you'll either simply hate it or just love it!

    For me this was being a very good and interesting watch, most likely due to its original concept. There are of course plenty of coming of age movies out there and also lots of movies about youngsters dealing with their sexuality, among many other issues. But as far as to my knowledge there never has been a coming of age movie, involving a lesbian character, set in the African-American community. It's weird to say, since it shouldn't be such a big deal. Nobody in the free-world should feel obligated to pretend to be someone that he or she just isn't and everybody has a right to be happy in his or her own way, no matter what your background or your sexual orientation is. And this movie of course deals with these issues and does it in a pretty realistic and effective way.

    It's actually due to the movie its realistic feeling and look that it all works out so effectively. none of the situations or characters in this movie feel exaggerated in any way and the movie deliberate remains small and humble with its story, settings and characters. It never goes all out on anything and the movie luckily also doesn't feel pretentious at all, not even with its directing approach, which is the sort of approach that easily could had annoyed me.

    The approach of this movie is a very fast pace, in which stuff happens, without having a 'normal' movie buildup to it (of course also mostly with hand-held camera-work involved). Some slower moments perhaps would had been nice, so things could sink in better and stuff could have a bigger impact as well but on the other hand this might had gone at the expense of the movie its realistic feeling. So I'm definitely contend with the approach this movie was taking, though I couldn't help but think that some things could had been better and could had made a bigger and more emotional impact. The movie as it is isn't being all that emotional and involving, at least not for me. Who knows, maybe there are age groups and persons out there who went through somewhat the same things and struggles as the movie its main character, who will get grabbed more by this movie and feel emotional involved with it, all the way through.

    For me, this movie was still absolutely being one fine, little genre movie, despite that I still had some issues with it.

  • Writer/Director Dee Rees is an inordinately talented newcomer. If PARIAH is indicative of the quality of films she will create, then we are in for a new level of verismo cinema. She tackles a tough subject - same sex relationships among African American women - with such insight and care to details that her film jumps off the screen screaming as in the words of her heroine 'I'm not running - I'm choosing': lesbian girls are not God's mistake (to quote the mother figure) but instead have the courage to accept their difference and embrace their sexuality and still become successful members of society.

    Alike/Lee (Adepero Oduye, a fine young actress who hails from Brooklyn by way of Nigeria, a graduate of Cornell University who has studied acting with Wynn Handman, Austin Pendleton, and Susan Batson) is a 17-year old sexually conflicted girl who lives in Brooklyn with her younger very bright sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) and her parents - police detective father Arthur (Charles Parnell) and conservative, overprotective, biased mother Audrey (Kim Wayans). Alike is an excellent student, a blossoming poet, and a lesbian: she maintains tow life styles complete with clothes changes so that she can be the 'daughter' at home and herself outside the home. Alike's best friend Laure (Pernell Walker) is her support system as Laure is comfortable about being out as a lesbian. Alike's home life is strained as her ever arguing parents disagree on many factors, on of them being Alike's need to appear like a man. Audrey arranges for Alike to become friends with Bina (Aasha Davis) who is the daughter of one of Audrey's friends, an encouragement that eventually leads to Alike's surprise first sexual experience with a girl who is just 'doing her own thing' - ie, not a lesbian. This deeply affects Alike, she delves more deeply into her poetry and graduates early because of her shining school record. At a point of no return she is confronted by her parents and the manner in which she makes her decision as to 'run or choose' provides the ending of the story.

    The cast is uniformly strong and though Adepero Oduye makes a show-stopping debut, the other actors are equally superb. Bradford Young is the cinematographer who helps create the atmosphere. The dialogue is delivered in street language and is often covered with shouting and with multiple characters talking simultaneously: subtitles help here. But the genius of the film is in the concept and the courage and in the amazing gift for creating meaning cinema that comes across as the work of Dee Rees. She is a talent to watch.

    Grady Harp
  • My stepmother and I went to a free screening of this movie at the Angelika Theater. I didn't know what to expect except that I knew the girl was a lesbian.

    This flick features TRULY gifted and believable actors...from the main character, Alike, and her pains and trials, to her young sister in high school and the parents...OMGSH, the parents...and her friend Laura was incredible too. The characters are juicy and rounded; you find yourself truly interested in the people they're portraying to be, and in how they feel. It's almost like you come to know them.

    Here, folks, is what to expect from the movie Pariah: this is an emotional film. It's got a lot of humor and heart, and it's got sadness and pain, too. We all remember growing up and trying to find out who we are and what we are attracted to; Pariah will remind you of what that felt like. You will emote as they do and be drawn in to the story right out of the box.

    Trust me...this is a movie you do NOT want to miss. Two thumbs WAY UP! :)
  • There are three things, Dee Rees told the audience of the 2011 Out In Africa South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, that they shouldn't say in a pitch: "black", "lesbian" and "coming of age"; a true but problematic piece of advice. To suggest that a film about a young girl coming out is not just a gay film is equally awkward as it implies that the label is a negative one, which is only true if instant box-office and mass-appeal is an absolute priority. It's just that, in one way or another, the message should be conveyed that Rees's debut feature Pariah is a film about the essence of being.

    Alike (Adepero Oduye) is a teenage Brooklyn girl who is struggling to live up to her mother's expectations while trying to figure out who she is. Certain about her sexual orientation, she's insecure about where she fits in as a young lesbian woman and a budding writer in search of her authentic voice. While the local gay club is offering some respite, she finds it difficult to identify both with the studs who throw money at strippers, and the femmes waiting to be picked up by the likes of her close friend Laura (Pernell Walker). And caught up between a controlling, disappointed and worried mother (Kim Wayans) and a disillusioned, tired and caring father (Charles Parnell), Alike, just like her parents and sister (Sahra Mellesse), is stuck in a suffocating web of lies that is keeping the fragile family unit from imploding, while preventing the family members from becoming all that they could be.

    Dee Rees and her phenomenal cast don't shy away from complexity and contradiction. Too courageous and curious to surrender to stereotyping, and in possession of the sensibility and wisdom required to capture not just the extraordinary, Rees relies on nuance and small gestures to convey the fears of Alike's father, the archetypal man who is as gentle, loving and sensitive as he is dominating, as well as the qualms of her mother, who with piercing eyes and a sharp tongue observes and comments on Alike's journey.

    "Who I am will always be part of my work." says Dee Rees, who hopes that one day her sexual orientation will be the premise of her stories, rather than the story. Pariah relates to blackness exactly like that; as a premise and not a defining condition and problem to be overcome, which is far from the only reason why Pariah is such an engaging and unique piece of well-written, well-directed and well-acted storytelling. One that speaks to anyone aspiring to or dreaming of reaching their full potential as human beings.

    This and other movie reviews to be found on the blog "In the Words of Katarina"
  • Perhaps Pariah occupies a title that is a bit too heavy for its subject matter. The film around a seventeen year old girl, black and lesbian in an urban neighborhood, that is trying to come of age in a time where she is placed into the rare category of being "a minority within a minority." She has some friends, a distant relationship with her parents (not uncommon in teens), and, at the end, her future still has rays of light peaking through the gloom. I have hope for her, and believe that labeling her as a "pariah" is a bit too harsh.

    The seventeen year old is named Alike (A-lie-kah, played by Adepero Oduye). Her parents are the heavily-Christian Audrey (Wayans) and the workaholic Arthur (Parnell). Alike usually spends her nights at seamy nightclubs, with her friends and a trusty fake ID. She finds it harder and harder to keep her desires and orientation concealed from her family, and, like most girls around that age, resorts to peer discussions which serve as her motivation.

    Let's stop right there; it takes no expert to realize that this is a cliché premise. I understand that. What do I say about cliché premises? When taken with enough heart, seriousness, and personality, they can be involving pictures all the same. Pariah gets involved with a number of different areas in film, that usually go untouched in a coming of age picture.

    For one, atmosphere is put to great use here. This is a story of urban alienation, depicting homosexuality in areas where we don't often see it. I was reminded of Scorsese's Taxi Driver while watching a lot of Pariah. Atmospheres are brightly colored and vividly shot. Lots of shots bleed with color, and a lot of silence is punctuated by inviting background music, sometimes cut with boombox hip-hop. Both stories depict lonely protagonists, hungering for acceptance in society, but are continuously left lost, wandering in the sea of despair.

    Movies like Pariah are wonderful because they showcase new talents in a familiar world. Another fantastic debut this year was Josh Trank's Chronicle, which had a creative premise, determined actors, and a slick script that lacked in cheap exploitation and gimmicks. Pariah was originally a twenty-eight minute short film, created by director Dee Rees, and in just a few years, has expanded the idea into a fantastic film. Spike Lee serves as one of the executive producers, and in many ways, from the gritty writing to the unsettling atmosphere (just like in Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X) it mirrors a film he could've made.

    Not to mention, aside from the film's behind the scenes work, it is also a beauty performance-wise. Adepero Oduye is forced to carry a grand weight of the film on her back, and accepts the challenge almost effortlessly, and Kim Wayans as the blatantly harsh mother, holding back fits of rage and attitude is also a well unsung role. Pariah's story is a great one, depicting homosexuality in places we don't think about, another fascinating story of urban alienation, and showcasing extremely well-cast actors performing beautifully written material. If it keeps up, Dee Rees could become the female Spike Lee.

    Starring: Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, and Aasha Davis. Directed by: Dee Rees.
  • -- --

    I don't think it's fair to say that PARIAH is this year's Precious, but I don't blame those who try to make the comparison. PARIAH does have themes about staying strong in the face of adversity, but just like Brokeback Mountain and Albert Nobbs, this film is also about being true to oneself and about acceptance. PARIAH is a bold, courageous feature debut by writer/director Dee Rees and a noteworthy performance by lead actress Adepero Oduye…

    This obviously is not the first film to champion LGTB but what makes it intriguing, at least in my book, is that it's probably one of the few I've seen, to convey LGTB story by way of urban black neighborhood. Writer/director Dee Rees is not afraid to push the conflicts, to emphasize how hard it is to come out and how frustrating it is for a lesbian to get used to the fact that she may never be allowed to come home to the family she loves. Is your sexual orientation something to look down on or to be proud of? That particular identity conflict is at the heart of PARIAH, the word itself means outcast or despised. It's a very well written script with dialogues and story arc that are riveting. The film has effective humor and its serious tone is at the right dose.

    Actress Adepero Oduye's performance is one that deserves attention, it should not be ignored. As Alike, she's quiet and you can also tell when she's confused and scared before she finally gets to be certain and undeterred. Kim Wayans (one of the Wayans siblings) also gives an equally impressive performance. Because I still remember her back in her comedic days but now seeing her unleash her dramatic chops is quite an upgrade. Kim represents every parent who unfortunately considers their gay children dead and Kim plays that role down pat. And just like Brokeback Mountain and Albert Nobbs, PARIAH also presented the challenges of falling in love with someone who wouldn't want to or is too scared to take the chance in fear of what society may think of them. With a dysfunctional family disguised in conservatism and old fashioned values, the film gives the lead character Alike even more reason to break away and choose her self.

    -- --
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Pariah' is the feature length expansion of a short film created by Dee Rees, presented at the Sundance Festival in 2007. It's basically a coming of age story focusing on a middle-class, black Lesbian teenager, Alike, played by Adepero Oduye. The title 'Pariah', is a bit of a strong epithet to describe Alike's situation, as she's mainly an outcast in the eyes of her mother Audrey (Kim Wayans), a devout Christian, who can't stomach the idea that her daughter is not really interested in men.

    'Pariah' is uniformly well-acted with a slow-moving plot that holds few surprises. In fact, take away the black middle-class environment and you'd be left with pretty much your ordinary 'coming out' tale of a conflicted gay teenager. All the stock characters are there including the 'villain' of the piece, the aforementioned intolerant mother as well as the more sympathetic police detective father, Arthur, who's not crazy about his daughter's choice of sexual orientation but still holds a special place in his heart for 'daddy's girl'. Also in the mix is Alike's best friend, Laura, who enjoys hanging out at 'rough' Lesbian clubs but eventually decides to get her GED. While Alike still enjoys a bond with one parent, Laura is not on speaking terms with her mother, who shows no interest when Laura rings her doorbell and informs her that she's passed her GED.

    Eventually, Alike's Mom introduces her to Bina, the daughter of one of her colleagues at work (strikingly played by Aasha Davis). The Mom finds Bina much more acceptable since she comes from a more upper class environment than what she regards as the lower class world Laura comes from. Bina invites Alike over to her house and makes it clear that she's interested in having an intimate encounter. At first Alike admits the proposition makes her uncomfortable but on a 'second date', the proposed tryst is consummated. The twist is that Bina is merely bi-curious and Alike is sorely disappointed that she won't be having an extended relationship with her for the foreseeable future. Alike's reaction is predictable: a full-scale meltdown where she trashes her own room.

    'Pariah' concludes also on a predictable note. Alike's Mom again chastises her for disappearing and then the parents argue over the mother's suspicion that the father has been having an affair. Alike declares her independence when she reveals to her father that she's been accepted into a creative writing program and asks his permission to sign papers so she can leave home.

    I suspect that deep down, 'Pariah' has garnered so many accolades not because it's a great film, but precisely because critics wish to encourage the film's creator, Ms. Rees, who apparently has much more talent as a director than a screenwriter. In terms of the writing, perhaps Ms. Rees' strongest suit is dialogue, which has a realistic, gritty feel to it. I also liked her choice of alternative rock for the soundtrack, instead of loud, rap music, which is the type of music one would expect to find in a drama of this kind.

    'Pariah' is a well-crafted first feature effort. You'll find very good acting here and a story that will pretty much hold your interest to the end. Nonetheless, I didn't find myself invested enough in the protagonist's journey to end up raving about the film as so many others have done. By film's end, with Alike's decision to branch off on her own, my reaction was, "okay, that's nice!" In essence, the filmmaker is saying that those who have been ostracized in society need to go forward in spite of all the criticism. But most young people must go through obstacles in order to achieve independence. Were Alike's difficulties in 'coming of age', that much different than other teenagers? Not really. Hence, I didn't feel I was watching something so 'different' or 'out of the ordinary'. It's up to Ms. Rees to next take on a project that goes beyond the world that she knows so well about and is comfortable with.
  • This movie turned out to be pretty good. Quality black dramas are so rare and this one definitely didn't disappoint. The script was well executed and the scenes seemed to piece together like falling dominoes, rather than a jigsaw puzzle with numerous elements missing. Alike is the main character who struggles with being what she considers her true self. Her domineering mother and the opinions of society causes her to repress who she is, a gay female who enjoys dressing like a guy. The agony of not being able to express her true self shows throughout her body language and face and I thought that was pretty good acting. Alike's mother specifically represented society who represses people's right to freedom through rules and moral codes. Alike's father is clearly having an affair but the mother struggles to ignore it, wanting to maintain her made up happy life. Her choice of ignorance symbolizes society's quest to ignore the realities, of what's truly real about people. The pacing and execution of this film reminded me of something Spike Lee would do.
  • This movie had one of the best trailers I have seen. From the visual style and music and poetry, it set the expectations pretty high. The movie opened strong with a vast majority of the trailer shown in the first 5 minutes. I found that lost some of the weight it would have had later in the film, you know after I got emotionally invested in the main character…that never really happened for me.

    This was a storyline we have come to know well in the independent film community. It was told from a new perspective and it was raw and urban and real. The problem I had was that aside from the plight of the repressed adolescent, I didn't really care about her. I almost found every other character more interesting including a surprising performance in the girl that played her little sister. I find it hard to really have a coming of age, be true to yourself storyline work unless the audience really connects with the character. At times I just saw an ungrateful child who thought her life was so much harder than everyone else's.

    What really did work in this movie was the fact that coming of age or "coming out" is hard in any setting. This movie showed that barriers exist in all races and all families. It was a bold movie and let me experience life from a completely different world. But I felt more like a voyeur and was never really transported into her life. It's not a bad way to spend an evening but maybe I'd wait to rent this.

  • MovieFreak7414 December 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was a breath of fresh air. It hasn't been released yet but I got see it today and I'm going to pimp it to death until it's released.

    Finally, a movie about LGTB youth of color. Finally, a movie that shows the afro-punk and underground black rock culture. Finally, a movie about how difficult it is to come out in a homophobic Christian black home. This movie was powerful, the characters were complex, no one was a walking stereotype, and it managed to balance angst with humor. Now how to summarize it without giving too much away....

    Well, basically, it's about a black girl named Alike, who is going through an gender and sexual identity transformation. She's trying to please everyone, being as 'girl-like' as possible for her mother, and being as boyish as she can for the ladies she wants to attract (or is it for herself? That's not really clear). Either way, it's not working out too well; people are starting to catch on that she may be gay. So when a new gay bar opens up in town, the real trouble starts. She starts sneaking out to with a very butch and out-of-the-closet friend, and becoming more curious about exploring all of the facets of her identity. Her mother is basically a fundamentalist Christian, while her father is a agnostic cop. It starts to get complicated when her mother tries to force her to be more 'lady like' and make arrangements for her to hang out with a fellow church friend's 'respectable' daughter. It doesn't quite work out like the mom planned, and it doesn't work out like Alike expected it to either.

    What's cool about this movie is that it shows how cultural and religious expectations intersect in a way to marginalize people in their own communities. It also shows how people can try to hold onto things so tightly that they end up breaking the very thing they're afraid of losing, or driving it away completely. The acting was really fantastic, the dialog was very realistically funny and uncomfortable at times, and the music was perfect. I also really liked how they used alternative music to show a different side of black culture that you rarely see in mainstream media. In some ways I think it was symbolic of the film's message about liberation and taking a different path. I won't give away the ending but we walked away from this one feeling uplifted. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In public, seventeen-year-old Alike, or Lee (Adepero Oduye), dresses in boys' jackets, baggy pants, and sports shoes. Her hair is short on its own, but she makes it even shorter by tying it back into a bun, and she hides it all under a baseball cap. She's not trying to pass herself off as a boy – she's just trying to wear what makes her most comfortable. But during bus rides home, she will take off the cap, let down her hair, remove the jacket, and reveal a form-fitting white shirt with a jeweled butterfly printed on it. She will even put earrings on. She will stop short, however, of putting on makeup. She makes herself look just feminine enough without becoming too girly. This is to sate her mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans), who doesn't approve of her tomboy looks and always tries to buy her more overtly female clothing.

    Lee is, of course, going through the process of accepting herself as a lesbian. She has yet to come out to her family. She has every reason to be hesitant, especially when it comes to her mother, who's so determined to keep up appearances that she will try to make her daughter into something she's not. She gets along better with her father, a cop named Arthur (Charles Parnell); at least they can play basketball together. But there's still a great deal of tension between them. He wants a daddy's girl, and he refuses to see his daughter's tomboy lifestyle as anything other than a phase. It doesn't help that he's quietly menacing, emotionally walled off, and apparently not in love with his wife. How he got this chip on his shoulder, no one really knows. It's strongly suggested, though, that he doesn't appreciate having to work extra to accommodate Audrey's excessive spending.

    One of the greatest strengths of "Pariah," director Dee Rees' feature-length expansion of her own 2007 short film, is that its themes are universal. Despite what appearances suggest, it's not about homosexuality; it's about identity and the dangers of forbidden love. This can take on so many forms – cultural taboos, generation gaps, religious intolerance, personality quirks, physical deformity – and still amount to the same thing. Appreciating this movie does not require that you be gay or even tolerant of gay people. All that's required of you is an understanding of how it feels to be different in some way. Have you ever been made fun of for a funny name, or an unusual hairstyle, or a unique style of dress? Has your family ever disapproved of your life decisions, like becoming an actor when they wanted you to become a doctor? Have you ever formed a friendship with someone disapproved of by others? If you can relate to any of this, or to any other circumstances I didn't mention, this movie will speak to you.

    Lee's best friend is an open lesbian named Laura (Pernell Walker), who lives with her sister and is trying to earn her GED. She often brings Lee to an all-female strip club and actively tries to hook her up with a girlfriend. Lee's mother doesn't approve of Laura. She would much rather see her be friends with a girl named Bina (Aasha Davis), the daughter of one of her work colleagues. Lee and Bina initially don't hit it off; Lee knows it's only to make each of their mothers happy. But as they spend more time together, it becomes apparent that Bina is hiding forbidden feelings of her own. But is she as willing to embrace her lesbianism? Is she even a lesbian? Sexuality is almost never set in stone, especially when you're still a teenager. Hormones sure do cause a lot of problems.

    The film features some of the year's best performances. Of particular note is Oduye, who wisely restrains herself from being too precocious. In just about every scene, she makes Lee seem like a natural teenager – confused about herself, at odds with her family, and desperate to make a connection with someone who understands her. She expresses herself through poetry, which has become her passion. This isn't to say she's an expert. One of my favorite scenes is early on, when she shows her latest work to her writing teacher. The consensus: Lee's writing is competent, but it could be much deeper. I majored in Creative Writing in college, so let me assure you, I've know what Lee felt at that very moment. There's nothing quite like submitting what you believe to be your best work, only for it to be mercilessly criticized by your professors.

    I was also impressed by Kim Wayans, whose take on Audrey is convincingly desperate. There's an interesting moment early in the film when, at work, she walks into the lounge area for lunch. Two other women are already in the room. They say nothing, but they take a disapproving look at her before getting up and leaving the room. Why do they dislike her? It's never directly stated, but her actions throughout the film suggest a woman who has alienated herself by being so judgmental. Her head is full of ideals, many of them impossible. It seems her daughter is not the film's only pariah. I always appreciate it when a movie's title applies to more than one character, as it adds depth and complexity. If you can see your way past the superficial aspects, and I sincerely hope that you can, you will find that "Pariah" is a powerful, compelling film.

    -- Chris Pandolfi (
  • To watch this film is to be in the presence of a remarkable talent -- Dee Rees. This is an unusually accomplished piece of filmmaking, not simply for someone starting out, but for anyone with a couple of decades of writing and directing behind them.

    Ms. Rees is that good.

    Add to this her sensitivity and passion in exploring a young woman of color as she navigates her inner awakenings, her growing awareness of who she is. Ms. Rees handles this with the confidence of a long-time pro. And with the understanding of one who very much understands the roiling waters of her young character's dilemma.

    Ms. Rees handles the young actor, Adepero Oduye, with equally assured sensitivity. Ms. Oduye takes over the screen without showcasing herself, often underplaying a moment, letting us come to her. There's no 'emoting' ... for proof of the young Ms. Oduye's impressively wide range, check her out in the current Richard Gere film, The Dinner. In her scenes with Gere, Ms. Oduye dominates the frame, an old scene-stealer like Richard Gere no match for the oh-so talented Adepero Oduye. She wipes him off the screen! A smashing talent, Ms. Odoye, and smashing-looking, to boot.

    Though the film works for both the LGBT and (I suppose, can't speak from experience) non-LGBT audience, it is especially satisfying and heartening to see us portrayed with such unflinching honesty and understanding. With Pariah and Moonlight, directors of color are showing the way home when it comes to exploring our LGBT world.
  • So we got another film like broke back mountain, and can consider this one as what broke back mountain would be if we go back when the characters were child. The film explores very nicely how gay and lesbian would feel and cope up with the fact when they find that they are what they are. Family is a biggest problem when proceeding with something like this. The acting is very nice by alike. I liked particularly the lighting in the film. they were apt and truly defined the actual notion of the film. The character of the father was nicely sketched and properly shown. There is nothing wrong in the film. I would say this is one of the best films on a different subject matter.

    "A must watch for all film buffs and a definite one time watch for anyone wanting to explore different story lines."
  • "It's not a phase, there's nothing wrong with me." Teenager Alike (Oduye) is struggling with who she is. At home she tries to be the woman her mother and father want her to be. Away from home she tries to be herself. Leading the double life is starting to wear "Li" down and she uses her writing to help release the emotions out that she holds. To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to this one. The preview made the movie look OK but I was still expecting it to be a little boring. I was dead wrong. Almost from the beginning you feel a connection with "Li" and throughout the movie that only grows. The acting is excellent in this and Kim Wayans (yes, that Kim Wayans) give a performance that is almost better the Mo'Nique's in "Precious". This movie is comparable to that one in a lot of ways. I will say that this movie is easier to watch and in my opinion better the "Precious". Very moving and real. One of the bigger surprises I have had watching a movie lately. Overall, if you liked "Precious" you will love this movie. I give it an A.
  • The faces are beautifully filmed. And lit. And overall many scenes are good for being stand alone pictures.

    But the story is bland. I could not relate with it. And the cast is extended, I had a hard time following who has what place. And although beautiful as pictures, the dark moody backdrops make the story even harder to follow.
  • Dee Rees recently received praise for her Academy Award-nominated "Mudbound". Another good movie that she did is 2011's "Pariah", about a black teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian. Much of the movie is shot in a naturalistic style, creating an extra sense of realism. And this is one of the best examples of a true-to-life story. The characters, conflicts and dialogue are the real thing every step of the way (helped by casting unknown people in the roles). It reminded me of "Precious" and "Moonlight" in that respect.

    It's not a masterpiece, but the struggles faced by the characters allow the plot to unfold at a respectable pace, and the cast puts its heart and soul into the multidimensional characters. I recommend it.
  • Dee Rees' debut feature, a coming-out drama expanding from her 2007 short of the same name, pivots on a 17-year-old Alike (Oduye, reprises the same role), an African-American girl maladroitly explores her inchoate sexuality against a stifling familial interference.

    On paper, this précis is just like one of the numberless reiterations of its ilks, a bumpy journey of self-discovery, trepidation, excitement, and sorrow, mingled with temporal prejudice and religion-inflamed narrow-mindedness. But Dee Rees, against the story's well-trodden path (although, both her and Alike's ethnic attributes give its story an edge of freshness), lends Alike's bittersweet rite-of-passage a distinct flavor of probity and plausibility that refuses to sweet the pill.

    Little doubt is cast on Alike's self-identification as a lesbian, the meat of her day-to-day battle is with the world around her, and pointedly with her family, Audrey (Wayans), her God-bothering mother high-handedly reproves her inappropriate get-up and choice of friend, her bestie is Laura (Walker), an out-and-out butch, masking her crush by ushering Alike to the local lesbian haunts. It is not in the strobing nightspot where Alike tastes the forbidden fruit for the first time, but ironically, it is through Bina (Davis), her mother's appointed friend, the daughter of her church-going coworker, Alike fully consummates her passion, yet the very next day, hits the rock bottom of a heartbreak, Bina's mood-swing is arguably, the weakest narrative linkage in the otherwise, slow-burned drama.

    In due time, Alike's baptism of fire will reach the boiling point in a seminal climax when she comes out during her parents' escalating wrangle, the explosion is tempestuous and no easy reconciliation is attained afterward, but Alike, facilitated by her knack of writing, finally, she can throw off her guilt and secret, embrace a new lease on her life with resolution, she is "not running but choosing", a sagacious war cry to heighten the requisite of having a choice, for those marginalized and nonconformist.

    While Dee Rees and her DP Bradford Young grace the story with a raw, restive energy that best encapsulates Brooklyn's milieu of black urban teenagers, Alike's story is sustained by its self-contained environs with exclusively non-white characters, no racial tension is broached, homophobia is pandemic, in home and elsewhere, but a touching note is that among younger generations, acceptance becomes the normalcy.

    A factoid might completely knock one's socks off, Adepero Oduye is 33 when making this film and a further burrowing discovers that Aasha Davis, who plays her fellow high-schooler Bina, is born in 1973 (source from IMDb), it is sheer beggar belief that these actresses can pull off playing characters half their ages (a blessing bestowed to the race maybe), especially in the case of Oduye, animatedly effuses teen spirit and simmering angst in her breakthrough performance.

    Among grown-ups there are also worthy players, although comparatively in a lesser extent, Charles Parnell (a younger-looking Keith David, anyone?) adeptly balances his benevolent father figure with his less savory image of a miffed and cheating husband as Arthur, Alike's father; then Kim Wayans, the mega-villain in this shoestring production, is another monstrous mother figure in the spirit of Monique is Lee Daniels' PRECIOUS (2009), less blustering but equally toxic and intractable.

    A decisively unsentimental entry in the queer cinema and a resounding testing ground of Dee Rees' acumen and auteurist disposition, PARIAH is here to stay.
  • It was made in 2011 by Director Dee Rees. She had made a short movie on the same character and subject in 2007. Because that short film of 28 minutes won 8 international awards Dee Rees got inspired to make it a full length feature film. It took 4 years to get to the finish line to release the movie - the finances, the actors, the longer scripts and the rehearsals under tight budgetary constraints.

    But in the end, what we see is a beautiful coming to age film of a young teenage girl Alike (played fabulously by stunning beautiful Adepero Oduye - her first break) who evolves to find her sexuality and heart break within a dis-functional family (any surprises there?) with a religious strict Catholic mother Audrey (played to perfection by Kim Wayans)

    Audrey is a regular caring mother who is unhappy and scared about her daughter Alike's behavior as a tom-boy and about Alike's friend, thus she introduces Alike to one of her colleagues daughter - who invariably initiates Alike into a same-sex love and turns her down breaking Alike's heart into pieces.

    But with this experience Alike realizes her sexuality and during a confrontation with her parents - she declares "I am a lesbian" to the utter dis-belief of Audrey who beats her up.

    Alike leaves the house forever and joins a English literature program - breaking free and finding LOVE.


    Director Dee Rees who has written and directed this movie has worked very hard and it shows in every frame on the screen.

    The scenes are so well written that start at a point and lead to a final conclusion that takes the movie forward while introducing each character traits to fill in the gaps of the journey of Alike.

    No wonder the film bagged 15 international awards and 28 nominations in various categories - mainly director, actress (in main lead) and actress in supporting role and best movie.

    I do not like the movies with hand-held camera - but Dee Ree and her editor has done a brilliant job in cutting and editing the pieces with smoothness.

    The atmosphere of New York's black downtown area is taken superbly with the spaces in school and evening hang outs in clubs reflecting the real culture of new millennium teenagers.

    The cinematography and music are excellent.

    Watching Pariah today gives us the glimpse of coming to age of Hollywood cinema - which I am sure laid path to another gem of a movie Moonlight (coming to age boy's movie on gay subject) to win best movie Oscar at 2017 Academy Awards.

    I would highly recommend this movie for everyone who is sensitive to the LGBTQREI group. Take a few tissues - it is a emotionally powerful tear-jerker.

    We can't resist to be part of the journey of each characters and their flaws and still LOVE them... SUPERB.

    My rating for the movie is 7.25 out of 10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In her 2011 film, Pariah, director Dee Rees examines the events of a lesbian adolescent female named Alike's life as she grows up in Brooklyn with her family that refuses to acknowledge her sexuality. Rees uses an intimate film style to closely examine the film's characters and the relationships between them as they function in a society that still does not fully accept those that are gay. By analyzing Rees' use of cinematography and plot, there are certain conclusions to be made regarding the film's ability to accurately portray the often struggle-laden experience of teenager growing up, in addition to them being criticized and even socially rejected for being gay. From the start of the film, Alike's experience of growing up while also beginning the process of 'coming out' with her sexuality is demonstrated to be painstakingly discreet. This is shown in the scene in which Alike takes the bus home from the club and changes out of her tomboy-look into more effeminate clothing and puts on earrings, so as to prevent her mother from discovering her sexuality (Serwer 1). This film not only serves as an autobiographical entry of a young women entering into adulthood, but also a journey of acceptance by one's family and society in general. This film also embraces the "womanist" culture, in that the women being portrayed in the film support each other without the assistance of a man's strength and disregards 'girly' stereotypes (Reid 109). Alike serves as an example of a woman that rejects the traditional, Nuclear role of a dependent female that typically relies on the patriarchal power and knowledge of a male figure to extract her strength, which is particularly demonstrated on screen by her nearly completely absent father (Reid, 112). Rees examines several of the greatest enemies of adolescence, the parents, in that they not only reject Alike for being gay, but also perceive her sexuality as a reason to socially condemn her. Alike's parents' rejection of her throughout the film demonstrates the reoccurring phenomenon in films about growing up in which the parents and society in general do not accept the emerging individuality of teenagers (Reid, 115). For example, Alike's sexuality is dismissed as a phase by her parents, which serves as a blanket response to anything that the parents do not like the idea of and assume that their child will grow out of. This film also reveals a certain societal perspective on gay people, which is that they inadequate because of their sexuality, which results in them often keeping their sexuality discreet, just as Alike had (Serwer 1). However, Alike used others' lack of faith in her as a source of empowerment to finally come out with her sexuality and pursue her dreams confidently. The film Pariah examines the struggles faced by those growing up gay in a society that does not yet fully accept them for who they are, and especially not their sexuality. Rees uses a riveting yet realistic plot to share a story not commonly told with the audience in hopes to raise awareness about the negative side-effects of rejecting someone based on an element integral to their being, such their sexuality. This film serves as a type of empowerment for women of any sexuality in that it shows the remarkable strength of one that is almost completely rejected by her family, and yet finds the courage in herself to continue to follow her dreams of writing poetry. More importantly this film serves as a reminder that teenagers and their individual characteristics, including sexuality, should not be treated as anything less than something that is integral to their unique personality and what makes them who they are, whether others disagree with it or not.

    Work Cited: Reid, Mark. Redefining Black Film. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993. Serwer, Andrew. "Film Review: "Pariah" and the Untold Stories in Black Cinema." Mother Jones (2011): 1. 28 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.
  • Alike's smile could stretch from California to Florida. It's a grin so infectious that you would never guess that, underneath her bubbliness, is a great deal of hurt. She is a lesbian, and has known so for years, but is afraid to admit it, both to herself and her dysfunctional family. Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay) is only able to act like herself around her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), who is openly gay, extroverted, and unafraid to speak her mind. She idolizes how comfortable Laura is in her own skin, but isn't so sure that her personal dream to be who she really is will ever become reality.

    It's understandable. Everyone around Alike is aware of her sexual orientation, but they aren't overt about it. Her parents, grumpy policeman Arthur (Charles Parnell) and the conservative Audrey (Kim Wayans), have put two and two together, but uttering the eventual four might cause an eruption of disbelief. Alike wants to break free from the clutches of the closet she is shackled to, and Pariah is a snapshot of that prison break. With her 4.0 GPA and stirring demeanor, she will, no doubt, succeed in life — yet this small window of her 18th year feels like an eternity to this charismatic young woman.

    Pariah is a coming-of-age story of sorts, but unlike its sappy peers it has something real, something rousing. Its story could be applied to anyone's life, regardless of sexuality, because it is a film that magnifies that awkward transition in high school where the kid starts to realize that their adult wings are sprouting while their parents, in denial, want to clip them so they can have their precious baby safely in their nest for just a few more years. In Alike's case, that evolution is infinitely more dramatic. She is close to becoming the woman she's always wanted to be, but in order to do so she must come out to her friends and family. It could destroy the comfortable repression that hangs over her life, but if she doesn't, she'll be someone else's version of Alike while the real one is confined to a psychological jail cell.

    Dee Rees, in her directorial debut, handles Pariah with sensitivity and a strong sense of affection that makes us care deeply about Alike's struggle with her identity. It's a semi-autobiographical work for Rees, and the result is something even more intimate than the best of memoirs. The film is directed with a flair for color and soul, accenting its walls with flavorful music and ripening the developments of its characters by giving us a chance to get to know them individually. Alike's story resonates with such power because Rees takes the time to study the people she will eventually come out to, spending scenes with them so that we can consider their ticks, their neuroses. If it were made by another filmmaker, perhaps Alike's parents would come across as the typical over- reactionary adults that befall movies with a similar premise. Not here. Rees is so delicate with her characters that even the harshest of a reaction rings with sympathy because we know, and, more importantly, understand, the reason for it.

    But of course, Pariah's tear-jerking sensibilities wouldn't have the same potency without Adepero Oduye, who portrays Alike with virulent sweetness. Subjects of a coming-of-age film frequently flutter about in copycatted air, slightly awkward, needing an adult for guidance. Oduye, though, isn't an ordinary actress, and Pariah isn't an ordinary film. As Alike, authenticity comes naturally; she is not so much acting here and she is becoming her character. There isn't a need for an Oscar-begging freakout to prove just how wonderful of a performance this is: Oduye's painless likability makes the urgency of Alike's dilemma all the more heartrending.

    When she experiences her first heartbreak, we cry with her. When she gets accepted into a prestigious college program, we cheer with her. Pariah is moving in a number of ways; few films are as ardent as this one.

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  • cnvrskdajw5 March 2015
    Quite simply: You have a 17 year old Brooklyn Teenager struggling to find herself (in a world around her full of labels).

    The Journey she takes is compelling and the performances are stellar, true and heartfelt (Kim Wayans performance is a huge surprise). It is very rare that such a complex and moving film can so deeply affect you, yet maintain such an up close and personal relationship (between all the characters) and that's why (along with the performances) this Film works!

    Without any extra hyperbole, this is , quite simply, one of the Best Films of the last 10 years!
  • lukhele034 January 2014
    I found this movie trailer by chance somewhere behind the cobwebs of Youtube. I was very excited to see a film like this, especially because of the focus on this taboo topic within the black demographic (who generally seem to share similar social stigmas all over the world). I had to watch it right away. After watching it, I was extremely upset and disappointed. I can't believe that not more people know that this movie even exists. What happened to the marketing? This could have been a real ground breaker and award nominee (award winner may be pushing it a bit).

    This movies' simplistic and honest take on an African American teenager's coming-of-age story does not force any moral outtake onto the viewer. It just wants to tell its story, which makes it that much more endearing.

    The storytelling is at some points frustrating because a lot of things that are insinuated are not fully developed, leaving the viewer without any real closure about any of the other characters besides the lead. I left the movie feeling like I wanted more. But not in the good 'movie mysteries' way; in the bad 'did you guys forget about those parts of the story?' way. I also felt like the climax and twists of the story line seemed abrupt and under-developed. If you want to fit in as many interesting stories as they did in this movie, they should all be done justice. Otherwise, focus on the one story you want people to zone into and make everything relate to that.

    Besides the story and character development flaws, this was a good start to good-quality, realistic films about the black demographic that can stand against other circuit films. Well-done. It was gutsy, taboo and well worth any controversy it may ignite. Let's keep them coming.
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