Question: I loved the short film, Pariah by Dee Rees and am eagerly awaiting it being made into a feature-length film. Can you tell us when we may see Pariah on the big screen and what else Rees is working on these days?
— Celeste, Shreveport, LA
Answer: I, too, am a huge fan of Pariah, it blew me away when I saw it at Outfest in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I had the pleasure of meeting the writer/director Dee Rees and her partner and Pariah producer Nekisa Cooper at the festival too. You’ll be happy to know that Rees was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for 2008, and Cooper recently participated in the inaugural Sundance Creative Producing Lab that nurtures emerging independent producing talent.
I touched base with Cooper regarding your questions. About the short film version of Pariah, she said:
In January, we held a screening of the short in New York City co-sponsored by The Hetrick Martin Institute (The Harvey Milk School), Green Chimneys and The Ali Forney Center where we announced the internship opportunity for LGBTQ youth on the feature production of Pariah to demystify the filmmaking process and expose them to career opportunities in the industry. To date we’ve screened the short in over 40 festivals and won more than 25 awards in mainstream, LGBT, and people of color festivals. The short will be distributed exclusively on the educational market via New Day Films starting in May 2009.
Adepero Oduye in a scene from Pariah
Regarding the feature-length version of Pariah, Cooper told us, "We’re partially funded and looking to shoot the feature in summer of 2009, and Dee participated in the Sundance Directing Lab in the summer of 2008 and workshopped seven scenes from the feature."
They’re also finishing up production on a documentary about Rees’s grandmother, Eventual Salvation. Having barely escaped with her life over a decade ago, Rees’s American born 80-year old grandmother returns to Monrovia, Liberia to rebuild her home and community after the devastating Liberian civil war. The film is the story of Amma’s journey home to help rebuild the country that gave her a second chance. (Click here to watch a clip from the film.)
A still from Eventual Salvation
Eventual Salvation follows Amma and her circle of friends and walks with them as they search for personal salvation while Liberia itself struggles for deliverance from 10 tumultuous years of civil war. For this film, Rees and Cooper are working with the talented composer from Frozen River, Shahzad Ismaily (Shahzad is currently working on Bjork’s upcoming album), and Eventual Salvation will premiere on the Sundance Channel in Fall 2009.
Finally, because they’re not busy enough, Rees and Cooper are also working on Colonial Gods, a contemporary story about a complicated friendship between a Somali man and Nigerian man set against the backdrop of gentrification and revitalization in the social housing neighborhoods of Cardiff Bay. Colonial Gods was the winners of the inaugural Iris Prize (25,000 pounds to shoot a LGBT-themed short film in Wales), and the Rees and Cooper will be going into production on it in April and premiere the film at the 2009 Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff, Wales.
For some reason, I suddenly feel very, very lazy.