Focus Features has acquired worldwide rights to the contemporary drama Pariah, the debut feature from writer/director Dee Rees. Pariah world-premiered In Competition this past week at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Spike Lee is among the feature's executive producers. Pariah is produced by Nekisa Cooper.
In tandem with the Pariah acquisition, Focus has engaged Ms. Rees to write a screenplay. The script deal is for a new feature-length film that the writer/director would conceive.
Pariah is one of the Festival's most acclaimed entries this year; Kyle Smith of The New York Post wrote that Pariah is "emotionally satisfying...with a likeable and believable heroine at its core." Andrew Barker of Variety wrote that actress Adepero Oduye gives "a wonderful lead performance."
The feature is an expansion of Ms. Rees' short film of the same name, which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Ms. Oduye, who had starred in the short film, portrays Alike (pronounced "ah-lee-kay"), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister (Sahra Mallesse) in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the support of her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), she is especially eager to find a girlfriend. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward.
Focus Features CEO James Schamus said, "Dee Rees has made a debut film that celebrates with astonishing artistry the journey of a young woman who simply never gives up on the power of love. We're thrilled to join her on this next step of a remarkable journey."
"We're thrilled to be working with Focus Features. They're such smart marketers and they love movies, so that we knew Focus was the perfect home for Pariah. We are excited for the film to reach the broadest audience possible," said Ms. Rees.
In addition to Mr. Lee, the executive producers of Pariah are Jeff Robinson, Sam Martin, Mary Jane Skalski, Susan Lewis, Ann Bradley, Stefan Nowicki, Benjamin Weber, Joey Carey, Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Judith Hefland, Douglas A. Eisenberg, and Matthew J. Simon.