Sound + Vision: ‘Pariah’ – The Struggles of Representation

by Xandega TahajuansyaDec 18, 2020

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Sound + Vision is a column that pairs film reviews with playlists inspired by the films reviewed. On this occasion, Xandega Tahajuansya discusses Pariah, one of the debut films made by black directors that aim to signify the struggles of dark skinned people around the world.

Director: Dee Rees
Released: 2011
Country: United States

Listen to the playlist inspired by Pariah below.

Dee Rees masterfully uses the first five minutes of this film to sum up its premise: a woman lives a double life to pursue her personal desires, away from the demands of her family. The film’s visual direction is guided by the genius eye of
Bradford Young — one of my favourite cinematographers — who is also known for his work on Arrival, A Most Violent Year, and the Netflix series When They See Us.

Actress Adepero Oduye portrays the main character Alike with alluring
conviction, capturing the restlessness of an environment that is unsympathetic towards her desires and identity. Through this film, I feel that Dee Rees is also trying to explore her own personal identity. That factor is visible when we see Alike and her family navigate and function within the chaos around them. Through the moving performances of the actors, and the spirit of the film itself, the viewer is able to see glimpses of beauty within mayhem.

There’s a good amount of representation of people from various backgrounds for a commercial film like Pariah, with its abundant, emotional vocabulary and references to actions that can be understood easily by younger viewers to better understand the travails of life. Before Pariah, I have never seen a film that represents people like Alike and her social environment. With that said, I can say that Pariah is an important and relevant film for all the Alikes out there in the world.

Those familiar with the Netflix series Master of None are certainly aware of the “Thanksgiving” episode, which is lead by the commanding performance of Lena Waithe, whose character represents the black LGBTQ community. It can be said that Pariah, an independent film made only with a budget of half a million US dollars, is the film that opened the way for such representation of that scale.


Score: 7.8/10
Favorite character: Alike.
Watch Pariah if you like: Master of None‘s “Thanksgiving” episode (2017), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016).
Highlights: the charming naivete of Adepero Oduye’s performance, the shimmering cinematography of Bradford Young.

About the Author

Xandega Tahajuansya
A member of the band Polka Wars and the founder of several companies dedicated to environmental issues. Possesses a great interest in watching and making films since his Mom told him that little Xandega never liked any kind of stories except for the films that he watched.
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