Sundance Film Festival Follow Up: PARIAH

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since PARIAH premiered at Sundance. The Brooklyn based, coming-out story impressed audiences in Park City and is now in theaters (well, theaters in certain cities). It’s the end of an extensive Sundance cycle for writer/director Dee Rees, who premiered a short version of the semi-autobiographical story at the festival back in 2007 and was chosen as a 2008 Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow.

PARIAH chronicles the coming-out process of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a smart, African-American teenager growing up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Like any coming-out story, it features the trials and tribulations of a protagonist discovering who she is and becoming that truth. Alike’s experience is probably relatable for a lot of teenagers and young adults coming out today; her parents are in denial over something so obvious. As GLBT culture becomes mainstream culture, the process of coming out is changing. Alike trickles, rather than barges, out of the closet.

Any film about teenagers is bound to include a crush or a quest to lose one’s virginity, and PARIAH is no exception. Alike’s experiences are a reminder of the universality of unrequited, teenage love and lust. And the soundtrack, featuring killer female-fronted Afro-punk, hip hop and neo soul, is a real reminder of how important music is to a high school student’s identity.

Brooklyn plays a big part in PARIAH, so it’s no surprise to see Spike Lee’s name attached as Executive Producer. And look for big things from Dee Rees, with Focus Features behind her and Lee by her side, she’s bound to find herself attached to something good soon.