By now, many of us have heard about director Lee Daniels’ directorial masterpiece “Precious,” and how Oprah Winfrey produced, and how it won the Audience Award at Sundance, etc., but finally the New York Times thought enough of it’s many accomplishments to feature it in their October 21st Magazine.
“Precious” is controversial and demanding, and the subject matter makes many –especially in the African American community– quite uncomfortable. Like “The Color Purple” before it, the subject matter of dejected, ridiculed, emotional and physically abused Black women, somehow pushes all of the right buttons. Add to this drama the fact that it’s focused on an obese, dark-skinned, illiterate, young Black woman, and now all of America has an opinion. Rarely is are African American women commented upon outside of the glossy, capped tooth world of entertainment, but this film wasn’t presented at your local movie theater, but at the art-crowd world of film festivals.
If you’ve ever questioned the validity and strength of film festivals, this film may prove you wrong.
Buzz started at the Sundance Film Festival, when the film was known as “Push.” Unfortunately, there was another film that came out at the same time and had the same name, but that film had major studio backing, big names, over the top CGI, ear-bleeding sound effects and lousy acting. Guess who won.
“Precious” is based on a book called “Push,” written by the author Sapphire, and the book is based on her life of abuse and low-self-esteem.
The Times’ article is interesting in some of the quotes it chose to add, though it is worth reading, especially for Lee Daniels’ insight on the world of film festivals… which is why we have the International Black Women’s Film Festival (www.ibwff.com). One of the quotes I found odd, though insightful, is from Mr. Daniels. The average American may have no clue regarding the context, and I wish they’d use the opportunity to “educate” the reader. Mr. Daniels is quoted as saying:
‘Precious’ is so not Obama,” Daniels said. “ ‘Precious’ is so not P.C. What I learned from doing the film is that even though I am black, I’m prejudiced. I’m prejudiced against people who are darker than me. When I was young, I went to a church where the lighter-skinned you were, the closer you sat to the altar. Anybody that’s heavy like Precious — I thought they were dirty and not very smart. Making this movie changed my heart. I’ll never look at a fat girl walking down the street the same way again.
As someone who is not into fetish-izing pain, adversity or dysfunction, I do believe this is a fresh opportunity to open up dialogs that are too quickly shut down in society.