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PRECIOUS

About The Production
Since its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE has confounded notions of what an "urban film” is, touching people of all backgrounds with its dramatic, vividly realized story of a Harlem teenager who overcomes tremendous obstacles to discover her own worth, beauty and potential. PRECIOUS is remarkable both for what it is -- a film whose heroine is a dark-skinned, plus-size young woman in 1987 Harlem; and for what it is not -- a static, standard-issue treatise on the disadvantaged. Directed with passion and imagination by Lee Daniels, written with elegant economy by Geoffrey Fletcher, and brilliantly performed by a fearless ensemble cast, PRECIOUS is a journey into a world whose specific realities may be far from our own, but whose fundamental human truths -- and fundamental human hopefulness -- are recognizable to us all. 

PRECIOUS is filmmaker Lee Daniels' second directorial effort, but it is a film he has wanted to make since he first read Sapphire's novel, which was published in June, 1996. That summer, Push was ubiquitous on New York subways, its arresting red-and-black cover design instantly identifiable. Intrigued, Daniels bought a copy. The story of Precious Jones, who learns her own value and potential when she learns to read, struck a deep chord. "From page one, I sat there with my mouth open: this was a world that I knew intimately,” recalls Daniels, who grew up in West Philadelphia. "I had many relatives who resembled Precious physically, and I had many friends and relatives who didn't know how to read but somehow got by in life. My neighbors, my relatives and I, we all know the politics of dealing with the social worker, waiting for her to come and hiding certain things so that she wouldn't see them.”

The milieu resonated, and so, too, did the voice of Precious, who describes her life in direct, unguarded language that evolves over the course of the book. Precious often misspells the words she is only now learning to write, but her thoughts and emotions are piercingly clear: her pain, anger and yearning for love; her feelings of doubt and worthlessness; her excitement at new discoveries and growing sense of confidence, pride and strength. "I identified with every syllable on the page,” says Daniels. "Precious's story is about learning to love yourself, and that is a universal story.” 

He continues, "By the end of the book I thought to myself, ‘Wow. How do you bring this to the screen?' Because people needed to know about this world.” 

Daniels was a successful talent manager, but he had not yet made the leap into feature filmmaking. In any case, the film rights to Push -- one of the most acclaimed and highly publicized books of 1996 -- were not for sale. Though the film world came knocking, Sapphire declined to entertain offers. "The book was doing well and I felt that it needed its own life,” the author explains. "It was my baby, and I worried that a bad or corny film could do a lot of damage.”

Sapphire's attachment to the material was as personal as it was strong. A poet who performed her work in various venues, she had lived in Harlem for a decade and spent eight years teaching reading and writing to teenagers and adults in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Push was her first novel, and it reflected what she observed and experienced during those years. "As a teacher, I was in a lot of the situations that are described in the book, and I was inspired by the resilience, intelligence, and beauty of the many young women I taught who persevered despite horrendous circumstances in their lives,” Sapphire comments. "These people are not invisible -- we hear about them every day. But they are totally misunderstood, and I wanted to show what‘s behind the statistics.” 

In 2001, Daniels transitioned from talent management to filmmaking with the<

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