AFI Movie Club: PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE

PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE stars newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and actress-comedian Mo’Nique in this adaptation directed by Lee Daniels and penned by Geoffrey Fletcher, who is the first African American to receive an Academy Award® for screenwriting. The film was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2009, which recognizes the best film and television series of the year. 

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Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was named after the film’s literary source, a novel published in 1996. The film, which did not yet have a distributor at the time, won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Drama, as well as the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Mo’Nique. 

DID YOU KNOW? PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE marked the feature film debut of star Gabourey Sidibe, as Precious. Her performance was honored with an Independent Spirit Award, as well as Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and Academy Awards®.   

DID YOU KNOW? Helen Mirren, who had previously starred in Lee Daniels’ SHADOWBOXER, was initially cast as the social worker Ms. Weiss, but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Mariah Carey. Mo’Nique, who performs the award-winning role of Mary in PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE, also appeared in SHADOWBOXER as a character named Precious. 

DID YOU KNOW? After its success at festivals, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE was acquired for distribution by Lionsgate. The film earned the attention of entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Tyler Perry, who both came on board as executive producers and presenters. 

DID YOU KNOW? The distribution of PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE prompted a lawsuit between Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, which claimed that it had an earlier contract to distribute the movie. 

DID YOU KNOW? PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE won two Academy Awards® for Best Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher – the first Black screenwriter ever awarded an Oscar® – and Best Supporting Actress for Mo’Nique, making her only the third black woman to win in that category to date. The film was also nominated for four additional Oscars® including Best Picture, Best Lead Actress for Gabourey Sidibe, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. 

DID YOU KNOW? PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE marked Lee Daniels’ first and only Oscar® nominations to date. 

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The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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– How do you think PRECIOUS confronts racism and bias? How did PRECIOUS change the way you see people in real life who are characterized onscreen? 

-PRECIOUS was released at a time in which a Black man—Barack Obama—was president. How had things changed since before that moment in our history, and how have they changed since? 

-PRECIOUS is based on the novel “Push,” written by the poet Sapphire, who used typos and phonetically misspelled words to convey the girl’s tumultuous internal world and her challenges at expressing herself. This style is conveyed in the film’s opening credits, setting the tone for the rest of the movie. How did this introduction impact you? Did it help to establish a sense of empathy or expectation about Precious? 

-Gabourey Sidibe described her character Precious as “sweet, but at the same time she’s learned to be defensive. When there’s trouble coming, she’s ready for it. She’s a warrior.” How does Precious present herself to be a warrior? Describe a scene in which she is both vulnerable and defensive. 

-Why do you think there has been a deficit in Hollywood in the representation of people of color, and why is it important to portray diverse stories? Knowing that images onscreen directly reflect and impact American culture, why do you think certain voices are marginalized or left out of the conversation all together? 

-PRECIOUS represents abhorrent and disturbing realities that people—particularly people of color and people in poverty—are confronted with every day. Were you able to relate to Precious’ story, or were you surprised by the torments she endured? 

-Despite her physical size and beauty, Precious feels invisible to others, a challenge faced by people of color as famously described in Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel “Invisible Man.” However, PRECIOUS allows its titular character to be seen in nearly every scene, thereby making the invisible visible to its audience. As a viewer, do you feel empowered by the process of watching a story that is rarely told on the big screen? 

-How would you rate PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE? 

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.

 

  

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