AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

10/5/09

Toronto Film Festival: Precious Wins People's Choice Award


Lee Daniels’ ‘Precious’ wins the People’s Choice award at TIFF

By Audrey J. Bernard, Lifestyles/Society Editor

(Toronto, Canada) – The biggest Oscar buzz coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is for the Lee Daniels-powerfully directed film Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire about an abused teenaged woman named Precious.

After its initial showing at the Sundance Film Festival where it garnered nothing but high praise making it a natural winner of the top People’s Choice Award at the TIFF – an award closely associated with future Oscar winners.

Although dark in subject matter, "Precious" is an inspirational film that had two of the biggest names in communication – Czarina Oprah Winfrey and Czar Tyler Perry – jumping on board to proudly associate their names with its intelligent message of self-empowerment.

Executive producers Winfrey and Perry, who will support Lionsgate's distribution of the film through their respective motion picture companies, Harpo Films and 34th Street Films, were on hand to discuss the movie.

Perry has enjoyed a prosperous relationship with Lionsgate who are behind the distribution of his current box office hit movie, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself." "Precious" marks the first film affiliated with Perry’s 34th Street banner.

Winfrey and Perry have both confessed their love for the story and Daniels brilliant adaptation in which he handled every nuance of the book without compromising the author’s intent. This historic movie is a life changing one and those who have seen "Precious" have been deeply touched by it and its Oscar-worthy acting.

As a matter of fact, Winfrey cannot stop talking about the film and it has become one of her "favorite things." She openly plugged the movie to her television audience on a recent show shot in New York’s Central Park where one of the film’s stars, gorgeous Mariah Carey was a guest.

Winfrey told her audience that they will not recognize the always glamorous Carey who has a 'glammed down' supporting role as a social worker. "At one point, Mariah tried to sneak and put some blush on her cheeks but Daniels made her wipe it off," conveyed Winfrey.

Carey, who was joined by hubby Nick Cannon, confessed to the audience that only Daniels is capable of making her do things on screen that she would never think of doing.

"They put lines under my eyes, gave me a faint mustache, and banned lipstick, blush a glamorous hairdo," she laughed as she pointed to Daniels who was seated in the front row of the live show next to record mogul L.A. Reid and Gayle King.

Mariah Carey and Lee Daniels 

"I made this film for every person out there who ever looked in the mirror and felt unsure about the person looking back," said Daniels during the press conference at TIFF. "This is not an art film for a select few. This is a movie that everyone can relate to." 

"Precious" stars newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’nique, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd, Mariah Carey, Kimberly Russell, Lenny Kravitz, Grace Hightower, Nealla Gordon and Bill Sage.

The black carpet was off the hook! Joining director and producer Daniels were Sidibe, Patton, Shepherd, Carey and Hightower along with co-executive producer Simone Sheffield, executive producers Lisa Cortes, and Winfrey and Perry, together with Mary J. Blige, who penned a song for the film, screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher and the book’s acclaimed author, Sapphire.

Unfortunately, the woman causing the biggest buzz, Mo’Nique, could not join her fellow actors as she was partying in New York at a special reception hosted by BET for her upcoming show that will air on BET starting October 5, 2009.

Set in Harlem in 1987, the movie follows the story of Claireece "Precious" Jones (Sidibe), a 16-year-old African American girl born into a life no one would want. She's pregnant for the second time by her absent father.

At home, she must wait on her mother (Mo'Nique), a poisonous angry woman who abuses her emotionally and physically. School is a place of chaos but Precious has reached the ninth grade with good marks and an awful secret: she can neither read nor write.

Precious may be downtrodden, but she holds onto her dream of doing better. Beneath her impassive expression is a watchful, curious young woman with a mushrooming sense that other possibilities exist for her. Threatened with expulsion, Precious is offered the chance to transfer to an alternative school.

She doesn't know the meaning of "alternative," but her instincts tell her this is the chance she has been waiting for. In the literacy workshop taught by the patient yet firm Ms. Rain (Patton), Precious begins a journey that will lead her from darkness, pain and powerlessness to light, love and self-determination.

Oprah was so taken aback by comedienne Mo’Nique’s portrayal of the malicious mother in the film that she called her and asked her, "What are you wearing to the Oscars?"

"Precious," which opens on November 6, 2009, is being touted as this year’s "Slumdog Millionaire" which walked off with all of the major Oscar awards last year. (Photo by Walter McBride)

 

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings and a film reviewer based in the New York City area. She is also a member of the esteemed Women Film Critics Circle

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