When I got home with my latest Red Box rental, I wasn't totally sure what to expect from this coming out film about a black teenage lesbian living in New York. I had recalled seeing a trailer for it on Facebook around the time the film was released. I had also read about the acclaim the film has received. Still, having never seen a story like this one told on film, I sort of braced myself for some over the top stereotypes and kind of simplification and dumbing down of a very complex issue. Don't judge me for my low expectations of a black film. I know there are good black writers, directors, producers and actors putting out great work constantly. Somehow, it seems like the black films that make it to the masses are usually not those great ones. So I was skeptical.
I pop the film in, it opens in a lesbian strip club, blasting music about a very female body part. I'm thinking, ooookay so we're jumping right in. Moments later, Alike (ah-lee-kay), played by one of my new favorite actresses, Adepero Oduye, is on a bus ride home after the club with her friend. Both girls are dressed like boys. Alike urges her friend to get off the bus before her stop. Once her friend is gone, Alike removes her boy clothes and puts on her gold hoop earrings before walking into her home after curfew. Somewhere between the moment when Alike slid off her do rag and put in her first gold hoop, I was hooked.
This film, written and directed by Dee Rees, tells the story of a high school girl who is tyring to find her identity as a lesbian. The girl has never had a girlfriend, but knows that she wants one. Her tragically Christian mother (tragic in that it hampered her capacity to love her daughter unconditionally) and emotionally absent father are both afraid to confront what they already know about their daughter. Her sister accepts her for who she is, but Alike's friends have their own idea of who and how she should be. Her journey towards understanding and self-acceptance is beautifully chronicled in Pariah. Aside from the female body part song, the soundtrack to this film is amazing.
I talked about it with my BFF on our vlog, GirlDidYouSee. Here is our conversation...
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Have you seen Pariah?