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Will Black People Support "Pariah" ?

by Sergio
September 13, 2011 3:51 AM
30 Comments
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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.

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30 Comments

  • Kid chaos | May 22, 2012 9:30 PMReply

    The ending was great the mother did not support the gay movement.Blacks have too much problems being gay is another problem they dont need.

  • ANONYMOUS | December 1, 2011 8:16 AMReply

    This is not a black film. This is an LGBT film with black characters. Focus Features is pursuing a platform release that targets strategic areas that are LGBT strongholds. By placing "Executive Produced by Spike Lee" on the poster Focus Features hopes to crossover into the mainstream "Black community" in these areas. Will Black People Support Pariah? Some will, but the majority WILL NOT.

  • Orville | May 22, 2012 9:05 PM

    Pariah is indeed a black film because of the intersections of race, class, and gender. There are gay people in the black community you know anonymous.

    I sincerely hope more black gay and lesbian films are released and are REALLY supported by the film studio.

    I think the marketing and promotion for Pariah could have been a lot better. I believe Pariah was only released in 24 theatres the movie wasn't given a chance to succeed. Perhaps Focus Features didn't know how to market the movie?

    The word LGBT is problematic to me because it relates to whiteness. When people think of LGBT they automatically think white and not gay people of colour. Pariah was an important film because FOR ONCE it was a movie about a black lesbian protagonist. I think Focus Features dropped the ball on this one and did not promote it enough to African American heterosexuals.

  • JosephW | April 8, 2012 3:14 AM

    What makes something a "black film" or an "LGBT" film? Why are these two apparent genres mutually exclusive? Couldn't Pariah occupy both spaces, while communicating what is essentially a human story about the notion of identity? I am sure that Pariah will be enjoyed by members of many communities, compensating for those who prejudge it based the subjects its director addresses. Simply calling a movie a "black film" though is regressive because it ghettoizes the content, feeding into the idea of a cultural monolith that doesn't really exist. Calling it an "LGBT film" has the same effect.

  • HotMess | September 16, 2011 3:11 AMReply

    It will be the #1 box office hit If they change the title to "Pariah's Big Happy Family" & give co-producer credits to Tyler Perry ...oh my people, my people!

  • blkswife5 | September 15, 2011 2:16 AMReply

    Why does Indie Wire compare every black or independent film made with Precious and what Lee Daniels "should" be doing... do you know him personally? Do you have some sort of vendetta or secret crush we should be aware of? I think its pretty funny that every time I read a review that you don't like, I see directly after the comment... "this is worse than a Lee Daniels Film" or if you do like it.... "these are the types of films Lee Daniels should be making". What is it with you and Lee Daniels?

  • befree1619 | September 14, 2011 6:43 AMReply

    Every more ain't for every black person. Sometimes we forget we are not a monolithic group. We choose a movie just like anyone else..based on actors, storyline, demographics ect. So to me it is not a question of black people supporting it..it is the question of blk people who are interested in THIS story supporting it..

  • Neziah | September 14, 2011 5:50 AMReply

    I will definitely support this film like I support all the best black films being released these days. This film is going to be huge, whether critically or financially, or both, I can just feel it. Let's all support it, you guys.

  • CareyCarey | September 14, 2011 4:57 AMReply

    See, here we go again. I waited to see how the comments would flow after reading Sergio’s “misinformed” post. I mean, if he would have just reported the news without injecting his preposterous personal statements, everything would have been fine, but noooo, he couldn’t resist adding a few precarious remarks.

    “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.) -- Sergio from the South Side of Chicago.

    What!!! That can’t be coming from the liquor induced lips of the man who said “Precious is a luridly-exploitative, over-the-top film’? Well, he must be drunk. I mean, lets see, so it’s church-going folks ( Sergio is an atheist, so he knows absolutely nothing about what goes on inside black churches) that will be the most “upset” about this movie? What!? What could possibly be the source of that information!?

    His remarks get sillier: lets see, MOST church folks have more skeletons in THEIR closet than atheist..... and NON-church-going folks..... and who else? Look, that’s such an ignorant statement from such an old man. So everybody in “the closet” are church going folks? Damn Sergio!

    “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” --Sergio Mims, from the South Side of Chicago.

    WTH!? A million other black preacher.... says who?! Listen, Sergio is on PURE-D-MESS! Listening to him on this subject, is like listening to a white racist talk about the black race. White racist are not black (Sergio does not attend a black church). The white racist incites hatred toward people who are “different” than them (Sergio displays the same propensities). Like the Tea-Party (racists), Sergio panders to a similar uniformed and like thinking crowd who tries to stratify themselves above those they dislike or don’t understand by throwing mud on them and spreading false rumors . Yet, unfortunately, some will follow...

    “How do they market to black folks outside of Churches and Beauty shops these days anyway? Both seem not for a movie like this” ~ politicallyincorrect on September 13, 2011

    But I am glad that some are listening for and to the right message, and will not be led on a fool's errand....

    "I could live without the lumping of all christians into one judgmental bundle but overall from what I’ve seen and heard about this movie I expect it to be well received by the “film is art” community and that will help get the word out." ~ Jeff O

  • Nia | September 14, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    I would love to see this film and share it with younger family members actually. I think particulary in the black community homosexuality is a hot button topic or something we turn a blind eye to. I wish it were open to people of all ages ( I think the film is rated R) never got why films about people under the age of 18 which dealt with SERIOUS topics like this weren't readily available for them to see.
    KIDS is one of my favorite movies. I would love to see someone deal with very real issues for today's youth in such a frank and honest manner again.

  • Margo | September 13, 2011 10:52 AMReply

    Thanks to this blog, I saw the film yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival....I thought it was great! Very well acted cast...I am a young black lady and I too certainly wonder how this film will be accepted by the Black community. I really wanted to ask that question during the Q&A but I was too shy.

    But everyone needs to check this out.....big ups to the whole cast and I was able to meet with Adepero for a few minutes after the screening. She is amazingly nice! I hope Blacks will jump on board but who knows..it will be interesting to see what happens!

  • politicallyincorrect | September 13, 2011 10:08 AMReply

    @ Reg

    How do they market to black folks outside of Churches and Beauty shops these days anyway? Both seem not for a movie like this. I do think they should try Essence, b/c they did cover a gay marriage.Or even Ebony would be open to the dialogue. 106 and Park? that would be ambitious but the audience is probably too young

  • reg | September 13, 2011 8:56 AMReply

    I'm not trying to start any shit but there's been criticism that the film hasn't been marketed to black folks so why would they support it. I mean unless you're reading a site like S&A or are following the people involved with it on Twitter and Facebook you probably won't know about the film. It's skipped every black film festival. That was probably by design. Clearly Focus doesnt feel like they need that audience or they're confident that word will spill over from Toronto. But i can't hate. They're doing what they feel they gotta do to get the film the exposure it needs for max box office and awards season. I'm curious to see what kind of marketing campaign they implement. Let's see if it all pays off.

  • politicallyincorrect | September 13, 2011 8:41 AMReply

    It was before my time but did black folks support Paris is Burning

  • Orville | September 13, 2011 8:40 AMReply

    I don't think this movie was made for a black audience the focus of the producers is to obtain white liberal support and maybe get nominations from the Oscars. White people run the Oscars so my answer is no. I think some black people will watch Pariah though that are open minded but I just hope this movie isn't stereotypical like Precious. I do believe a film about a young black lesbian is very important because obviously lesbianism is not discussed in the black community enough. I think Pariah has the potential to reach beyond the gay community it might reach a larger audience that includes black heterosexuals because the protagonist is a black lesbian.

  • Mec | September 13, 2011 6:59 AMReply

    Miles Maker,

    Do you live in the T.O?

    I didn't get to see "Pariah" last night. But I will be seeing it tomorrow. I also heard that Dee Rees & cast were spotted at the Spoke Club downtown.

    I hope Dee Rees gets that Oscar nom. We need more visionaries/storytellers like her in indie film. Congrats to Dee Rees & Co. and her deal w/ WME Entertainment.

    I am looking forward to that Focus Features thriller titled "Bolo" she has in the works w/ her co-producer Nekisa Cooper.

    Things are looking mighty bright for Dee Rees these days!

  • LeonRaymond Mitchell | September 13, 2011 6:59 AMReply

    Black folk need to stop all the posturing and just go and see the damn film, it’s about people shown in a qualitative way, and the strength of it comes from layered story line and excellent acting and superb photography. Stop being so damn ignorant and let the film invade your mind and then you see that’s it’s about conflicts via coming of age via crushing stereotypes, when the Film The Kids Are Alright came out it was a runaway hit cause every one picked up on the unique premise and the stance of blowing up stereotypes and he of course the actors were stellar. But Black folk will run falling over themselves to go see another in a series of films of a man wearing a dress pretending to be a Southern woman no matter how horrific the story line is. Now comes a real deep art film and Black folks start posturing. Some of us get tired of the countless hood films and dumb ass home boy meets sassy hood sistah films. Now you have a superb choice of quality in which the subject matter is strong. Maybe Harry Belafonte is right, maybe Black folk have way too many personal problems to be able to make a film of quality and appreciate or spot a quality film when it’s laid in their laps. Henceforth why the state of the Black Film Industry is akin to Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey’s Circus!!!

  • JMac | September 13, 2011 6:54 AMReply

    I'm not the biggest fan of gay movies but I'll watch one if it deals more with the humanity and emotions of the person than just the sexual attraction. [Okay, I did watch the L Word but that's different.] The feel I've gotten so far from Pariah is that it is an emotional, 'see my life through my eyes before you judge me' type of film. I think a large chunk of black people would support this even in the bible thumping South- if they're aware of its release. Definitely more than they will support a film about two black men. Heaven forbid!

    I still don't understand the Christmas time release though. That certainly isn't the time of year I would want to watch unless some of the story takes place during that time. It may do more harm than good.

  • blaqbird | September 13, 2011 6:22 AMReply

    I'm with Jeff O: no need to lump all of us Christians together. We're not all gay-hating/protesting people. Anywho I will be seeing Pariah because I've always been into indie film, and I'd like to see more Black actors and actresses in this field and doing it well.

  • Sergio | September 13, 2011 5:45 AMReply

    "To knock prejudice by being prejudice(d) is comical"

    That's me. I'm a barrel of laughs.

  • Kendra | September 13, 2011 5:40 AMReply

    Careful. Your prejudice is showing. To knock prejudice by being prejudice is comical. If this movie is seen by white people and liked by white people it will be a success. Because that, apparently is what measures success. Like Precious getting the Oscar noms. I digress further...if the movie is indie it will likely not be seen by too many black folks who aren't interested in indie films or don't know about them. Unless it recieves proper promotion. But I thought originally it would be like a Precious type film so I already decided that i didn't want to see it but wished for its success. But everyone here is saying it's light and is about identity and family. That appeals to me. I'll netflix it or watch it online.

  • Sergio | September 13, 2011 5:27 AMReply

    "I could live without the lumping of all christians into one judgmental bundle"

    As for me I can't live without "lumping of all christians into one judgmental bundle"

  • Clayton | September 13, 2011 5:16 AMReply

    @ politicallyincorrect

    I agree. Pariah is different from Precious. The comparison can only be made on which film you prefer most and which executed better in the different categories of craftsmanship (cinematography, acting, writing, directing, etc.). I hope Pariah gets the support it needs. This would be good for the motion picture industry.


    Please join us on Pro-Black Sheep the movie Facebook page. Thank you.

  • Jeff O | September 13, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    I could live without the lumping of all christians into one judgmental bundle, but overall from what I've seen and heard about this movie I expect it to be well received by the "film is art" community and that will help get the word out.

    The trailer I saw did have a Precious-esque flavor to it, but I think the industry feels that's how they have to market to black folks. What sprang to my mind was a modern day Celie at least initially.

    Black folks will watch it, if only not to be left out of what everyone is talking about , and especially if the film gets rave reviews from "W" folks. We love our controversy just look at The Help.

  • politicallyincorrect | September 13, 2011 4:36 AMReply

    Will black people support- No, not the masses who go see those other black films. Black people prefer Tyler Perry/Jumping the Broom type movies. No harm no foul, like Whitney said show me the receipts and that's what they prove.

    I don't know why folks are comparing it to Precious, this character appears to come from a "normal' family who don't seem abusive but may disagree with gays. (although I didn't see the movie)

  • Clayton | September 13, 2011 4:31 AMReply

    I saw the film and thought it was one of the best I saw all year. If it doesn't get the support needed to encourage more quality films like it, then we filmmakers who want to make movies featuring Black people may want to consider another profession.


    Please join us on Pro-Black Sheep the movie Facebook page. Thank you.

  • Sergio | September 13, 2011 4:28 AMReply

    @ MIles

    Yes Chicago too on Xmas. That what was announced to the audience last night at the screening

  • Kia | September 13, 2011 4:26 AMReply

    I have to agree with Miles Maker here and it's a theory I stand firmly behind: If you make a well crafted film that speaks to a universal human quality--good or bad--then people will support. Certain groups may not be knocking down the doors on the first weekend, but a strong word of mouth will pull them in gradually.

  • Donnie Leapheart | September 13, 2011 4:17 AMReply

    Wait...the premise of question in this post assumes that large audiences of black people support non-Tyler Perry endorsed independent films in general...Which we all know is incorrect....So there, you have your answer Sergio.

  • Miles Maker | September 13, 2011 4:14 AMReply

    CORRECTION:
    PARIAH will release in New York, San Francisco and LA--not Chicago.

    --and having seen this film, I'm sure you can agree this film is bigger than being Black and bigger than LGBT this film is about identity and the angst related to being yourself and the power of choice.

    PARIAH screened to a multicultural audience of 540 last night in the TIFF Bell Lightbox at the Toronto International Film Festival and all but a dozen stayed for the Q&A afterwards. This is a brilliantly crafted film that speaks to families, friends and social circles in profound and compelling ways. This film is about being ourselves; being human. I can personally attest to the fact Black people are indeed human and we will indeed support this film!

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