Focus Features Buys Black Lesbian Drama ‘Pariah’

After its premiere at Sundance, the coming-of-age story of a butch black lesbian may be on its way to a theater near you.

By Jamilah King Jan 31, 2011

Good news. Focus Features has reportedly acquired "Pariah", the coming-of-age story of a young, black lesbian in New York City that recently made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The deal closed early Friday morning after Focus CEO James Schamus viewed the film and it was screened for Focus execs in Los Angeles. Other suitors for the film included the Weinstein Co. and Sony Pictures Classics. But the NBC Universal specialty division, which had also made a strong bid to acquire the romantic drama Like Crazy earlier in the week, liked Pariah so much it also hired Rees to write another undetermined project.

The film, executive produced by Spike Lee and produced by Nekisa Cooper, stars Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, Pernell Walker and Kim Wayans. It’s a no-star inner-city drama, indicating that despite the recent takeover by Comcast of NBC Universal, Focus is still being allowed to pursue and release indie-minded, tough-sell films from new filmmaking voices.

Rod McCullom points out on his blog that the studio has a good track record financing critically successful LGBT independent films, such as "Brokeback Mountain", "Milk", and "The Kids Are Alright."

"I’ve seen some early screeners of Pariah and it is very moving," McCullom writes."Kim Wayans’ character as the disapproving, gay-bashing "Christian" mother should generate a much-needed conversation in Black LGBT community."

Writer and director Dee Rees also discussed her motivations to make the film in a recent interview with Cinema Blend, talking about her own coming out experience, her first club experience, and her inspirations.

In the video below, Rees and producer Nekisha Cooper discuss more about the film.