During the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, a film by a new young director took the festival by storm winning the Cinematography Award for director Dee Rees (and director of photography Bradford Young), as well as a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. That's huge for first timers; that's huge for old-timers!


But it didn't stop there. It went on Ms Rees a Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham (New York) Awards and a Freedom of Expression Award from the National Board of Review. It recently was nominated for 9 awards from Washington DC's Black Reel Awards. Those nominations include Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Actress for Adepero Oduye, Best Breakthrough Performance and Supporting Actress for Kim Wayans, Best Director, Best Ensemble, Best Screenplay for Dee Rees, Best Supporting Actress for Pernell Walker and of course... Best Film.



I sat down with the two most ladies most attached to the film - Adepero Oduye and director Dee Rees - when they visited Chicago.


CINEMATREK: "Pariah" had an interesting route to get to production. Can you tell me more about the adventure?


Dee Rees: It actually started out as a feature film in 2005; about 140 pages - a monster! So for graduation I took an excerp from it - down to 30 pages and tweaked it and made it into a stand alone short. As the short film started to make it's way around the festival circuit, it the attention of a few insiders at Sundance. I participated in a screewriters lab, a driecting lab, and so that's how it continued to develop into a feature film. So it's really a great thing to see it become what it was originally meant to be a feature to short all the way back to feature again. And we all grew as artists; we all grew in the process.


CINEMATREK: You won the Cinematrography Award at Sundance...


Dee Rees: Actually that was Bradford won the cinematography award... he's amazing... he's a true artist. He has another film in the upcoming Sundance called "Middle of Nowhere".


CINEMATREK: How did you wind up casting Kim Wayans as Alike's mom?


Dee Rees: We had seen a lot of Audrey's and... for that character, it was a hard character to write and a hard character to play. I need someone to capture the vulnerability and the loneliness, and so we had actresses that were just playing anger. And then Kim came in and she just blew it out the water. She was the first one we saw that made Audrey sympathetic and... But then she also interviewed Adepero and I could believe there was a family scene.


CINEMATREK: I noticed you had Spike Lee listed as Executive Producer. How much did actually contribute?


Dee Rees: Spike was a professor of mine at NYU (and work with him on "Inside Man"). So he gave me advice of the script, gave me feedback on creating a budget, and then we approached him to formally take the role as executive producer. But he's been a mentor, so we just asked him to officially sign on and he did. After that he watch it being film and post production; he even headed to Sundance and adived us on distribution and he was really a mentor throughout the process.


CINEMATREK: Adepero, what drew you to the role?


Adepero Oduye: As an actor... things that stuck out to you that are so unique... some that you really just want to be a part of. I guess I just knew immediately that it was for me; I never heard of this before but I just wanted to be part of it. I was just hoping I could be an extra. Yeah... that's how much I really wanted to be a part of it. And so it was just a surprise, an awesom surprise when she called me and ask me if I wanted to go for the lead. I was so excited and It's been an amazing experience.


CINEMATREK: You had great tension between you and Audrey; believable tension. How was it working with Kim Wayans? I mean you got beat up by a comedian!


Adepero Oduye: [Laughter] I've been beat up by worse. No she was so nice and generous and giving as an actor. She gave a lot of advise and was really open... just a really awesome spirit. She was very committed and quite focused on the set... depending on the scene. It was just a real joy to work with her.


CINEMATREK: There were several poems in the film Dee, have you ever been published?


Dee Rees: I won a poetry contest when I was in the sixth grade and it's just something I just use to express myself... but no book yet. They are personal.


CINEMATREK: But you have to cash in while you can!


Dee Rees: I don't know, I've been asked. But I have other things I'm looking at. More scripts.


CINEMATREK: More women's studies?


Dee Rees: Not necessarily, maybe something different.


If "Pariah" is an indication, we will be seeing a lot of Dee Rees and Adepero Oduye in theaters and... at the awards. "Pariah" is in release starting January 6th 2012 in limited markets.