Focus Features has acquired Pariah, the coming-of-age drama about a Black lesbian teen in New York City, after its feature debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Pariah was created by writer/director Dee Rees.
The deal closed early Friday morning after Focus CEO James Schamus viewed the film and it was screened for Focus execs in Los Angeles. Other suitors for the film incuded the Weinstein Co. and Sony Pictures Classics. But the NBC Universal specialty division, which had also made a strong bid to acquire the romantic drama Like Crazy earlier in the week, liked Pariah so much it also hired Rees to write another undetermined project.
The film, executive produced by Spike Lee and produced by Nekisa Cooper, stars Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, Pernell Walker and Kim Wayans. It's a no-star inner-city drama, indicating that despite the recent takeover by Comcast of NBC Universal, Focus is still being allowed to pursue and release indie-minded, tough-sell films from new filmmaking voices.
The film 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. Focus acquired the film for "less than $1 million", adds the 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.
Kyle Smith at the New York Post enjoyed the film: "Its portrayal of a black middle-class family—in which both parents have good jobs and eat dinner every night with their two school-age daughters—is refreshingly free of cliche and in the title role Adepero Oduye is totally convincing, without being maudlin, as a 17-year-old girl who doesn't feel free to dress the way she wants to (in baggy, oversized clothes) or to date whom she wants to or even to be friends with whom she likes."
I've seen some early screeners of Pariah and it is very moving. Kim Wayans' character as the disapproving, gay-bashing "Christian" mother should generate a much-needed conversation in Black LGBT community. Writer/director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper discuss the film AFTER THE JUMP ...