R20 readers may recall our January 2011 report about Pariah, the coming-of-age drama about a Black lesbian teen in New York City. Pariah was originally created as a short film by writer/director Dee Rees. The project was developed into a feature film and made its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
When she began writing the script six years ago, Rees was going through her own coming-out process. "As I was coming into my sexuality, I started to become comfortable with who I was. But I didn’t know how to express that," says the 34-year-old filmmaker. "Some of the awe and anxiety the lead character feels were things I experienced when I was coming out, coming into this world."
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Rees was amazed to see teenage girls totally out and proud when she came to New York. "Even if I had figured out my sexuality at that age, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to be that person, and that is how the idea for the film came about," she says. ...
Rees admits the principal conflicts in the film are similar to her own. "Parental conflict is something I really went through," she says. "When I came out, my parents weren’t accepting ... For a few months, they sent emails, cards, letters and Bible verses to make me change," she says. She cut off communication, alienating herself, but eventually started talking to them again. "Things are better now."
Pariah is about 17-year-old "butch" lesbian Alike discovering her sexual identity with which contrasts with the feminine, obedient Christian girl desired by her family. One of the standout characters was Kim Wayans as the disapproving, gay-bashing "Christian" mother.
Focus acquired the film for "less than $1 million" last January, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The studio has a good track record of financing critically- and commercially-successful independent LGBT features, such as Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and The Kids Are All Right, currently nominated for four Academy Awards.
Black Enterprise, Ebony, Essence and Jet have profiled LGBT issues in recent months. The cover of Black Enterprise's July 2011 issue was "Black and Gay in Corporate America." Our report on Black same-sex couples raising children was featured in the October 2011 EBONY.
The film opens in limited engagement in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on December 28. The nationwide premiere is January 2012. Watch the trailer AFTER THE JUMP ...
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Focus Features Buys Black Lesbian Drama "Pariah"