New film "Precious" gets big push from Oprah

Mon Sep 14, 2009 2:36pm EDT
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By Frank McGurty

TORONTO (Reuters) - When it comes to generating Oscar buzz, a film like "Precious" could do far worse than having Oprah Winfrey's backing.

America's most influential tastemaker said she came to the project late, signing on as executive producer only after the Lee Daniels-directed tale of the abuse and redemption of a big city teenage girl was mostly ready for the big screen.

Judging from the reaction to its weekend screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, long considered a launch pad for Academy Award campaigns, "Precious" is likely to have a powerful impression on film audiences and Oscar voters.

"It is so raw that it sucks the air out of the room by the end of the film," Oprah told reporters before the movie's gala presentation in Toronto.

"I think it is a good thing that you are taken to that level of engagement with this film," Oprah said, seated alongside newcomer Gabourey Sidibe who plays the title role. "A film like this comes along once in a time."

Set in Harlem in 1987, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," tells the harrowing story of an obese, illiterate teenager named Claireece "Precious" Jones, who was impregnated by her own father for a second time.

Walking through life in sullen silence, Precious endures brutal physical and emotional abuse from her mother (Mo'Nique), a welfare cheat who spends her waking hours in front of a grainy TV set in their darkened tenement.


<p>Oprah Winfrey arrives at the "Precious" film screening during the 34th Toronto International Film Festival, September 13, 2009. The festival runs from September 10-19. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA ENTERTAINMENT)</p>