Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Award-Winning Film Precious Based on Award-Winning Book Push by Sapphire

"I big. I talk, I eats, I cooks, I laugh, watch TV, do what my muver say. But I can see... I don't exist. Don't nobody want me. Don't nobody need me. I know who I am... I know who they say I am—vampire sucking the system's blood."

Precious, now playing in select theaters, is based on Sapphire's 1996 novel Push about obese, illiterate 16-year-old Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) from Harlem who is physically and mentally abused by her mother (Mo'Nique) and sexually abused by her father. When she becomes pregnant with her father's second child at age 16, the school pushes her to drop out and attend an "Each One Teach One" GED program. With the help of her social worker (Mariah Carey) and teacher (Paula Patton), she learns how to read and write, building the confidence she needs to create a better life for herself and her children.

Gabourey Sidibe was chosen out of 500 girls director Lee Daniels interviewed. This is her first acting gig and the word around Hollywood is that her Academy Award nomination is in the bag. Daniels says that when you meet the real Gabourey—giggly and full-of-life—you'll see just how amazing her acting in Precious is. True story: When a blonde model showed up to film a dream sequence with Sidibe, the crew pushed Sidibe aside and showered attention on the model. Daniels told them, "If you don't know that Precious is the real star of this movie, you should not be working on it." The he fired them. I think I'm in love with my new favorite director!

I would never have predicted that the words "award winning movie" and "Mariah Carey" would be used in the same sentence, but here it is: Mariah Carey plays a social worker in the award-winning movie Precious. An unrecognizable high school counselor, to be sure; a tired, overworked character with a "little mustache" drawn on with mascara that Carey said she dealt with because she believed in the director's vision.

Precious has racked up sixteen nominations and nine awards, including Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic for director Lee Daniels and Special Jury Prize for Mo'Nique.

SapphireWho is Sapphire?

Sapphire was born Ramona Lofton in 1950 into a middle-class military family. After high school she joined the black power movement and changed her name to Sapphire because she "read somewhere that the rays emitted by sapphires can change the molecular structure of other gemstones—and that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life."

The 1980s were a turbulent time for her. After reuniting with her alcoholic mother in the late 1970s, her mother died in 1986. The same year her homeless, schizophrenic brother was murdered in a Los Angeles park. Around this time she started uncovering memories of molestation by her father, which he denied when confronted. But her sister confirmed the abuse.

Her first claim to fame was a 1989 poem called "Wild Thing," which told the story of the Central Park jogger attack from the sympathetic view of one of the young attackers, whom she imagined grew up as an abused child. Her poem outraged many, and was used by Jesse Helms to attack the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded the poem.

Her first book was a well-received collection of poems and prose dealing with childhood abuse and stereotypical images of blacks and Africans in popular culture.

But it was her novel Push that earned her a bigger audience. Sapphire admits that part of her agenda with Push was to talk about the welfare system, but also to "tell a really pure, unadulterated story about a girl."

Biography Resource Center (requires a JCLC card and residence in Birmingham, AL)

"The Surprise Diamond of Hollywood"

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