Films & Schedules
  • Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

  • Lee Daniels

Country: USA
109 minutes

Sunday September 1309:30PM ROY THOMSON HALL Buy Now
Monday September 1412:30PM WINTER GARDEN THEATRE Buy Now
Description Credits


Raw, vibrant and resoundingly hopeful, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire will stand in years to come as one of the strongest American films of 2009. Although the details of its plot may shock, it is at heart the story of a young woman determined to better herself despite overwhelming obstacles set against her.

Harlem, 1987: Claireece “Precious” Jones is a teenager in a living hell. She is pregnant, for the second time, by her own father. Her mother, played in a searing performance by Mo'Nique, is emotionally abusive and physically brutal. Precious has been mistreated and undervalued her whole life; her obesity appears to be both a result of and a shield against the hateful acts committed by those who should love her most.

But she can dream. Sullen and suspicious to most casual observers, Precious has a rich inner world full of colourful fantasies of celebrity and adoration. As in the original novel by Sapphire, Precious narrates her interior life with sometimes hilarious wit. Director Lee Daniels keeps the sparkle and insight of Sapphire's language, even as he shows a girl keeping her head down in the face of shocking abuse and neglect.

Already in grade nine, Precious can neither read nor write. Faced with expulsion, she accepts an alternative programme, Each One/Teach One, without fully knowing what “alternative” means. Here, she finds opportunity for the first time. The teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), glimpses the Precious beneath her fierce exterior and begins to draw her out.

The hardship is real in Precious, which is based on Sapphire's experiences teaching in Harlem. But the effect of the film is an electric encounter with the highs and lows of life. Daniels inspires his actors to reach deep into themselves to communicate the truth of this story. Patton is consistently strong, Mo'Nique is a revelation, Mariah Carey utterly transforms herself and Lenny Kravitz is pure charm playing a nurse. But all respect must go to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as Precious. She is simply unforgettable.

Lee Daniels was born in Philadelphia and studied at Lindenwood University in Missouri before beginning a career in producing. His first film as producer was the Academy Award®-winning Monster's Ball (01), followed by The Woodsman, which screened at the Festival in 2004, and Tennessee (08). His debut feature as both director and producer, Shadowboxer, premiered at the Festival in 2005. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (09) is his second film.

Cadillac People's Choice Award