Dee Rees’ Pariah remains one of the most stunning directorial debuts in recent years. An instant cinematic classic, the film announced both Rees and cinematographer Bradford Young as important new voices in the world of cinema. While both have proven themselves more than worthy of carrying the mantle, the fact that Pariah can still surprise and amaze years later is a testament to the talent on displayed in each facet of the film.

Pariah tells the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a Brooklyn teen attempting to come to terms with her sexual identity in an environment that refuses to accept her for who she is. As Alike’s fondness for women grows, and others in the community become more aware of her orientation, conflict with her strict church going mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) rises. While her police officer father Arthur (Charles Parnell) appears be more willing to allow his daughter to be who she is, he finds it difficult to ignore the judging eyes and remarks from those in the community.

If the parental pressures were not stressful enough, Alike must also deal with the growing tension between her and her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker) when she falls for the rebellious Bina (Aasha Davis).

In juxtaposing the ways Alike and Laura are ostracized by their mothers, and how it ultimately impacts the decisions they make, Pariah presents a richly layered coming of age tale unlike any other in cinema. The film is not so much concerned with reconciliation as it is with observing a young woman reclaiming control over her own path in life.

Rees confident direction is further accentuated by the phenomenal performances in the film. Adepero Oduye delivers a heartbreaking and empowering turn as Alike. She effortlessly conveys Alike’s raw vulnerability in a mesmerizing way. Her scenes with the equally riveting Kim Wayans, who ensures Audrey is both a woman you despise and sympathize with, are captivating to watch.

Visually magnetic, Young’s colour palette perfectly captures Alike’s moods as she shifts from lust to love and all things between, and emotionally honest, Pariah is a masterpiece.

Friday, October 12, 6:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Director Dee Rees will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion.


  1. I saw this film a few years ago and was impressed by it. Especially Kim Wayans who is often known for comedy but she was incredible in this.

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