Sunday, January 22, 2012


Two years ago I recommended the film Precious, which is about an African-American teen girl in New York City. Today I'm recommending Dee Rees' "Pariah", which is about an African-American teen girl in the same city. However, the similarities end there. Claireece "Precious" Jones was obese and illiterate and had endured horrendous physical and sexual abuse from her hideous family. Alike (Adepero Aduye) is slim, attractive, a good student, and a very good poet. She comes from a loving middle class family. Her problem is that although she has not yet had sex, she knows absolutely that she is a Lesbian, but she can't figure out how to come out to her family.

Her father is a NYC cop, her mother (Kim Wayans) is an office worker and a very fervent member of a fundamentalist church. Alike's dad is oblivious to Alike's sexuality. Her mom has suspicions, but believes that she can will her daughter into being a good straight girl. Alike puts off the inevitable confrontation with her mother by leaving the house in girl clothes and changing into the boy clothes that she feels comfortable in. At one point Alike's mom forces her to hang out with the daughter (Aasha Davis) of one of the other women in the church. This girl turns out to be a lot more complicated than she first seems. Alike's best friend (Pernell Walker) is also her guide into the world of African American Butch Lesbians.

This film is well cast, well acted, and very well made, with a good mixture of humor and drama. I recommend it. Dee Rees is another young director to keep an eye on. Her second film will be interesting to see because "Pariah" is based on her own experience coming out and her next project will presumably be material not quite so close to home.

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