“Pariah” represents LGBTQIA community

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“There’s something special about seeing somebody who’s a lot like you portrayed in a film,” said Rex Welton, founder of the LGBTQIA film society OUT at the Movies, in a phone interview.

Having the same mindset as Welton, Guilford’s Multicultural Education Department hosted an Oct. 5 screening of Dee Rees’ “Pariah,” a film about a 17-year-old African-American girl named Alike who tries to embrace being a lesbian. The coming-of-age story follows Alike as she grows into the woman she wants to be, not who people tell her to be.

Irving Zavaleta Jimenez, Latino community coordinator and assistant director for the MED, led a post-film discussion. The conversation flowed back and forth from praises of the film to questions and personal connections to the main character and her experiences. Students talked about how the movie resonated with them because they could apply it to their own experiences.

Guilford film professor Chad Phillips, who leads many similar discussions about LGBTQIA issues in his Gay and Lesbian Cinema class, believes that representation in film is important.

“I think the representation is very important for LGBT people, particularly trans individuals, today to see themselves as major characters in film and TV,” said Phillips in an email interview. “I remember when Will & Grace premiered and being surprised that a gay character would be the lead in a show because it just didn’t exist …

“Everyone wants to see their lives, interests, conflicts … being represented in storytelling.”

According to Karen Coleman, an OUT at the Movies board member, LGBTQIA representation is also critical for people outside LGBTQIA sphere since it urges those outside of the community to recognize LGBTQIA individuals and their struggles.

“For those who don’t get exposed to (the LGBTQIA community), (LGBTQIA films) normalize it,” said Coleman.

In order to showcase and normalize LGBTQIA relationships and struggles, OUT at the Movies hosted their fourth annual film festival on Oct. 5–8 in Winston-Salem. At the festival, the organization screened over 15 LGBTQIA films.

One of the films featured at this year’s OUT at the Movies festival was David Berry’s “Something Like Summer,” which is also a coming-of-age film. It tells the story of a high school boy who falls for his popular friend, who initially appears to be straight but is later revealed as bisexual. The film then follows those two characters for over a decade.

“LGBT stories are (relevant) to everyone and can be universally understood in a lot of ways,” said Grant Davis, the main actor in “Something Like Summer,” in an email interview. “(The goal is) to get everyone on the same page and understand we all fall in and out of love. (It’s) human. Not gay or straight.”

Much like Davis, Director of the MED Krishauna Hines-Gaither believes that “Pariah” and other LGBTQIA films unify their audiences.

“There are universal themes (in LGBTQIA films) … such as love, rejection, acceptance, identity, race, sexuality, gender expression, family dynamics, generational differences and religion,” said Hines-Gaither in an email interview.

Films positively displaying LGBTQIA characters and their struggles allow viewers who feel invisible in the media to see themselves portrayed on the screen.

“(Representation) feels like gosh, there I am,” said Welton. “There (are) parts of me.”