Film screening to enable discussions on gender and sexuality

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies student group is offering a special screening of the critically acclaimed film “Pariah” in classroom 101 of the Graduate College of Social Work.

An extension of the 2007 short with the same name and protagonist, director Dee Rees’ 2011 feature follows African-American teenager Alike and the struggles she encounters as a lesbian.

“Not only is it a really revolutionary film, it also has issues that everyone can relate to,” Lena Myers, president of WGSS said. “(What we want) to focus on is starting conversations on campus around non-normative genders and sexualities. More than that, it’s (about) reaching people and giving them an outlet to talk. Even in classes sometimes there are barriers to (discuss the topic.)”

Following the screening is a question and answer session with Rachel Afi Quinn, assistant professor in comparative cultural studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

“Dr. Quinn is dynamic and smart,”  said Sarah Luna, faculty advisor for WGSS. “She offers a great inter sectional analysis. Dr. Quinn has done really amazing work in her time at UH to build connections between several academic programs and different communities in Houston. She’s a mover and a shaker.”

Myers said the film has been incorporated in Quinn’s course at UH that focuses on female African-American protagonists in novels and films called “Brown Girls, Brown Stories.”

Myers believes the film could reshape audiences’ perspective on harsh issues like sexism, homophobia, domestic abuse and coming out to family members.

“When we recognize ourselves feeling uncomfortable, it’s the first step in realizing what kind of change we need to see and happen in ourselves,” Myers said. “If you push that back, we’re not looking at ourselves as a point of transformation.”

Luna said that beyond its themes, “Pariah” demonstrates a breakthrough for diversity in the film industry.

“In the media generally, and even in the mainstream gay rights movement, the voices we hear and stories we learn are usually from the perspective of white men,” Luna said.“Of course, really great films made by and about black lesbians exist, and this is one of them, but they are tiny drops in the huge bucket of all of the stories we hear every day about white men.”

Myers anticipated that audiences will embrace the topics brought forth in “Pariah.”

“I hope they take home that talking about sexuality is cool and has a lot personal and community benefits,” Myers said. “As long as they don’t take away that ‘these kind of people don’t matter,’ I’m  happy.”

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