So, yes. I was one of those gung-ho for George Lucas' "Red Tails" to debut and, in hearing about his struggles to get it produced, made it a personal mission to spread the word and garner as much support for it as possible. Four weeks and $41 million dollars later, I feel good about my small part to seal its place in movie history.
However, as the movement for "Red Tails" was gaining more support by the day, another movement for a lesser known independent film was growing as well. That film was "Pariah," a coming-of-age story written and directed by Dee Rees and partially executive produced by Spike Lee. But outside of film festivals and movie clubs, that highly praised the film, one question kept surfacing: "Why is no one pushing 'Pariah' like they're pushing 'Red Tails'?" Probably not the fairest question with the two movies being so vastly different, as the only similarity both seemed to share were being films with all-black casts about a black American experience. But that wasn't the only similarity. For what ties these two movies together akin to Yin and Yang is one very strong thread: the thread of acceptance. One about race; the other about sexuality.
And there possibly lies the answer for why "Pariah" is not receiving the mainstream conversation it so rightly deserves. That being, that regardless of how common sexual images have become on our TVs, in our music, and on the silver screen, many are still not comfortable discussing sexuality. It's the blessing and the curse for this movie because although that's its core theme, there are so many more layers that exist that everyone regardless of race or sexual orientation can relate to: the struggle for acceptance; experiencing rejection; making friends; losing friends; seeing your parents for who they really are; having your parents see you for who you really are; experiencing your first love; experiencing your first heartbreak; and, ulimately, choosing to discover life on your own terms.
In the end, what emerges is a beautiful, visual tapestry of the complexities of life while the focus on sexuality rests comfortably in the passenger's seat. Not that it isn't integral to driving the plot; it's just that when you open your eyes--and your mind--to what "Pariah" is offering, you simply see so much more. And isn't that what the fight for equality is all about? Looking past the surface for the common bond that unites us all? "Pariah" masters this with respect, humor, heartfelt emotion, and does it all from a rare perspective: an African-American, teenage girl from Brooklyn.
With exceptional acting by both newcomers (Adepero Oduye, as subject character, "Alike") and veterans (Kim Wayans, as her heartbroken mother, "Adele," who struggles to accept Alike's choices as well as choices she has made in her own life), "Pariah" easily becomes a movie that not only needs to be seen but needs to be supported and talked about. It may not have the big budget or vast screen placement as "Red Tails," but it doesn't have to. It's found a way to make a powerful statement in a small space and with quiet genius. I laughed. I cried. I learned. But more importantly, I was inspired. I think you will be too. See it...and spread the word.
Official Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYkgJYTpyOY