“Precious” Comes to Philly

NBCPhiladelphia sat down with director Lee Daniels

In “Precious,” visionary director and Philly native Lee Daniels takes a dark story of poverty, abuse, and violence and spins it into an uplifting road to redemption. Not an easy task by any means, but “Precious” expertly balances the two and has become on of the most critically acclaimed and anticipated movies of 2009.

Daniels, born and raised in West Philadelphia, never thought his latest film would even see a theatrical release.

“I thought it’s going to go to DVD.”

Alluding to that fact that his films really aren’t made to connect to a mainstream audience, Daniels explains, “I can’t worry about what other people think . If I did, I wouldn't be in Hollywood.”

And it’s not that he wants to disregard his audience in anyway, he feels the need to tell the truth that is in his soul, and that truth should be evident in the final product.

Perhaps the first indication that “Precious” was bound for much more than a DVD release was when the film premiered at Sundance over a year ago.

“We took it to Salt Lake City and audiences ran out of the theater like their hair was on fire. But I think you can’t help but be affected by the truth,” said the director.

After the screenings at Sundance, Daniels realized that the story, based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, which he had originally made for a black audience, was universal.

“It goes beyond sex and culture.”

This became even more evident when a Japanese woman stopped him at a 7/11 in Salt Lake City after seeing the film.

“I met this Japanese woman, around 70-years-old. She just started sobbing in my arms. It was the most beautiful moment for me. You know this woman who could barely speak my language, embraced the moment and understood the moment.”

Among the many that helped create the many beautiful moments in “Precious” are the expert actors whose performances in the film are being hailed as Oscar-worthy. The most important character, Precious, was the also the most difficult to cast. Over 400 girls auditioned for the role of Clarice “Precious” Jones, yet he decided to go with the most unlikely candidate. Gabourey Sidibe, a girl with literally no acting experience besides some college theater, was the clear choice for Daniels.

“Gabby is not Precious. She is acting the character. She came in and did this gut-wrenching, breathtaking rendition.”

That gut-wrenching rendition coupled with Daniel’s brilliant storytelling caught the attention of more than just audiences at Sundance. Oprah and Tyler Perry viewed the film and dubbed it a “must see.”

Since, then both Oprah and Perry have jumped onboard as executive producers and have managed to help push the film into wide release.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts, “Precious” will be released in Philadelphia starting Friday, November 13. If early hype is any indication, this brilliant little ‘indie that could’ will receive the respect and recognition it deserves.

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