Pariah (2011)

Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Dee Rees
Cast: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Aasha Davis, Charles Parnell, Sahra Mellesse, Kim Wayans
Part of: The film will be shown on June 15th in Vienna as part of the identities festival.

When 16 year old Alike (Adepero Oduye) is out with her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), they go to lesbian clubbings and try to get Qlike her first kiss. But at home, she has to hide her sexual orientation, though her parents do suspect something’s up. Her mother (Sahra Mellesse) tries to get her out of Laura’s influence in the hopes to change things, while her father (Charles Parnell) doesn’t want to get involved much.

Pariah was a well made, engaging film that doesn’t tell a very easy story (even if it’s not the newest) but tells it with a lot empathy and sensitivity, and a good cast.


It is rare that films are told from the perspective of a minority and even rarer that you get a protagonist that belongs to two minorities. So that alone would make the film worthwile. But it is far from the only thing that does that.

The cast was generally very strong, but I especially liked Adepero Oduye’s performance. She really has a very good presence and she managed to make Alike feel entirely real. Though that is not only due to her. It wouldn’t surprise me if the script was in large parts autobiographic. (And if it isn’t it’s certainly extremely realistic.)


I also appreciated that the script and the film stays with Alike the entire time. It doesn’t make her parents into monsters who don’t understand anything but it does grab you by the nape and forces you to view the film from her perspective -including all the pain that her parents’ behavior causes. And when her heart gets broken, yours breaks right along with it, even though you could see it coming a mile off.

And that’s the film’s real strength: that you feel every moment with Alike, which makes all her struggles perfectly clear.


Summarising: definitely recommended.

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