Friday, January 06, 2012

"Pariah" is an eclectic hit on opening night in more general release

Pariah” was offered as the closing night film at Reel Affirmations 20.  I missed it because of a trip to Williamsburg VA for William and Mary GALA.  I saw it on opening day in an exclusive engagement at Landmark E Street in downtown Washington.  The film, directed by Dee Rees, produced by MBK and several other companies, and has a major corporate distributor, Focus Features (belonging to NBC Universal), as well as major release support from Sundance.

The film takes place in the fort Greene area of Brooklyn.  I appears to be shot in HD video with heavy use of close-ups in Dogme style.  Most of the film takes place indoors in very “ordinary” and somewhat constricted-looking household settings, such as what might be common in the community.

Alike (Adepero Oduye), at 17, is a good student and has a definite talent for writing, including poetry. (The film presents her description of a butterlfy’s life.)  She is coming to terms with her feelings for other women, and has had an openly  lesbian friend  Laura (Pernell Walker). Her  parents  Arthur (a cop) and Audrey (Charles Parnell and Kim Wayans) are experiencing strain in their marriage which may be related to unease about their daughter’s “social” direction.  (In an early scene, mother chides Alike for staying out a little late after a movie).  The idea that the  gay children could impact parents’ marriage is not often discussed but very important (it may have been significant in my own life a half-century ago). Mother tries to get her to socialize with Bina (Aasha Davis) with surprising results.

The cast is all African-American.  The audience was largely so (and mostly female), and often enjoyed the subtle humor of the script, which tended to be very community specific and might not be funny to “wider” audiences (even white gay male audiences).  A smaller auditorium at Landmark was nearly sold out for the early Friday evening show.

The official site is here. It’s interesting that the first definition of the word is “a person without status”.

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