Dee Rees’ Sundance-honored dramatic debut about the coming out of a seventeen-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has both substance and style. “Pariah” is luminous and boldly lit, in a range of warm-to-hot colors, often against velvet-dark backgrounds, reminiscent of some of the sturdiest images of co-producer Spike Lee’s movies. (Bradford Young took Sundance 2011’s Excellence in Cinematography Award.) It’s an inviting look, creating one warm, swaddling New York City. Built upon a 2007 short film of the same name, also starring Adepero Oduye as young Alike (ah-lee-kay), “Pariah” is richly observed and lovingly constructed, with the commonplaces of a coming-out tale demonstrated with verve and wit. (Rees notes Alice Walker, Audre Lord and Jennie Livingston’s documentary “Paris is Burning” as key influences.) It’s assured all the way down to Alike’s last, tentative yet assured smile and the sweet pulse of music that flows into the end credits. With Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, Sahra Mellesse, Pernell Walker, Aasha Davis. 86m. (Ray Pride)
“Pariah” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.