Monday, January 16, 2012

Streep's Shout-out to 'Pariah'

Count me among the movie-lovers who have little tolerance and patience for hand-held, jerky-movement camerawork most keenly when it's accompanied by rapid-fast editing. Two such movies that drove me out of the theater before the first twenty-minutes were over were "District 9" and "Meloncholia", despite being engaged with the narrative and acting.

I almost walked out on the press screening of "Pariah", a powerful film about a black teenage lesbian named Alike growing up with a religious fundamentalist mother and understanding father in Brooklyn, because the first ten-minutes assaulted my eyeballs, but stayed and got caught up the movie once the camera settled down.
We watch Alike as she takes in the dancing and cruising lesbians in dark bar, showing both shyness and a beautiful almost-blinding smile. After closing time, she gets on a bus home and changes out of her butch drag and into more femme attire, before arriving home and putting on a straight act for her waiting mom.

"Pariah" is an honest look at a young lesbian of color emerging into her sexuality and forging an educational path into adulthood, with a knock-out performance by the talented Adepero Oduye in the lead. It's a shame she has not received best actress accolades and award nominations, that she more than deserves.

While Oduye may not be receiving the attention from the likes of the Golden Globe nominating committee, but she got a shout-out from acting goddess Meryl Streep in her acceptance speech last night at the Globes, who also praised "Pariah".

The film's creator, out black lesbian Dee Rees, has written and directed a gritty, urban contemporary coming out story that stays true to its Brooklyn setting, and she's delivered a few universal truths many of us went through to step out of the closet regarding of our skin color or where we were raised.

She doesn't hit the audience over the head the joys of Alike finding intimacy or dealing with her parents' conflicts about her declaring her lesbian status. Rees is a new talent on the American indie film scene, with new films in development and I'm expecting more engaging stories from her, stories that reach my heart.

In San Francisco, "Pariah" is playing at the Embarcadero Cinema. Click here for info on tickets and showtimes. Go here to visit the film's official web site. And be sure to catch this movie.

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