By Sergio | Shadow and Act September 13, 2011 at 3:51AM
As I mentioned last week, starting this week, Focus Features is taking the unusual step of screening Dee Rees' Pariah for the media, activist and support groups, and just plain regular folks, some 4 months before its release on Christmas Day in NY, Chicago and LA, and the rest of the country on January 2012.
They know that they have a special film that's surely going to get rave reviews and a lot of attention, but also that needs special handling because of its subject matter. The film's premise, about a young insecure, vulnerable 17 year old teenager trying to come to terms with the fact that she's gay, will no doubt upset some people. Meanwhile, her parents, whose rocky marriage is quickly coming apart at the seams, try mightily to ignore their daughter's obvious true self, hoping to convince themselves that she's just a "tomboy" going through a tough phrase. It's a personal and emotional film that, according to a recent interview with Rees and her producer Nekisa Cooper , was based in part on their real experiences and their relationships with their parents.
And when I say the film will no doubt upset "some people", you know who I'm taking about: Black people; in particular those church-going, good Christians for whom homosexuality is the sin of all sins. (And most of them, you know, have more skeletons in the closet and committed more sins than anyone else alive.)
But having now seen the the film myself (though I can't go into more detail about it now; however, there will be plenty of that later on for sure) it definitely lives up to what we've been hearing about it. It's an excellent, well written and acted, gorgeously photographed by Bradford Young, who did some equally extraordinary work on Tina Mabry's Mississippi Damned) sensitive and uplifting drama that should by seen by everyone.
Some will probably compare it to Precious, which is totally ridiculous. Not only are the films quite dissimilar, but unlike Precious, which is a luridly-exploitative, over-the-top film, Pariah is a film of relative restraint. There's a "risque" comic scene played broadly for laughs, and a seduction scene that takes place late in the film, but there's no sex or nudity in it at all. (Sorry guys, no hot ebony girl-girl action in this film. Yeah I know... bummer)
And while Precious is a long slog through abuse and depravity, Pariah is an optimistic and quite entertaining film running at a tight trim 86 minutes.
And let's face it, who else could have made a film like this? Lee Daniels is too overwrought and bombastic to make a film as subtle; and Tyler Perry would slit his own throat than to even consider making something like this.
Still the question remains, will there be black people who will be reluctant to see this film because because of its subject matter? I sincerely hope that number will be small, because it's a well-made, worthwhile film of substance; the kind we keep screaming for. And NO Pariah for sure IS NOT some "castor oil" movie as I have so famously called them. (Read HERE)
Though I can already see Rev. Eddie Long condemning this film, when in reality he and a million other black preachers EXACTLY like him (and you KNOW what I mean) should be the first ones in line to see the film when it comes out.