Conversations With: Lee Daniels

Out director Lee Daniels claims Sundance's Grand Jury Prize for Push, the tale of one girl's struggle for survival in 1980s Harlem -- and one of the most moving portraits of a lesbian in black cinema.

BY Corey Scholibo

January 26 2009 12:00 AM ET

Push Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe x390 (PUBLICITY) | Advocate.com 

In the wake of Prop. 8, there’s a certain tension
going on right now between being black and being
gay in America. Do you think your film is adding a
voice to that?
Yeah. It’s so upsetting. My boyfriend
told me that -- this is before we saw
Milk, before we knew about this whole thing up
at Sundance too -- he was like, “You’re
so up into your fucking film-world ass that
you’re not realizing what’s going on out
here. And that you have a voice and you should be using your
voice to do something.” And I said,
“Honey, you know what, I have two kids, I have
you, I have my work, I’m not a political activist. I
don’t have time to go out and ... I wish I did,
but you know, when? In between wiping my ass and
fucking brushing my teeth? When?” Then I saw
Milk. And I realized that drag queens took
bullets for us. It was like my mom, when I was in college
once, first year of college, and I was really being
defined and I didn’t vote and my mother called
me up and she said, “Did you vote to today?”
And I said “Oh, no, I didn’t have
time.” And she started crying -- “I
don’t have any front teeth so that you could
vote.”

And there you are. And she said, “Nigger, you need to get
your ass up and vote.” And it was that same
sort of thing when I watched Milk, that I
realized how important it was and how timely the push is
right now for African-Americans who think that being
gay is bad. Because we’re tricked in the film,
we don’t know until three fourths of the way
through the film that she’s gay. She’s like
the beautiful diva, savior, light-skinned, pretty,
savior. Guess what? No-o-o.

It seems to me people are going to go see this
movie to see the black experience, to see this
particular black experience at this particular
time. And then they’re going to learn
something unexpected about being gay. I can’t
think of another movie like this that goes in and
sort of, you know, in the side door kind of thing.
It’s really going to capture an audience and then
do it.
I mean, I love that I’m able to make this
statement. That I’m able to make
African-Americans know that it’s OK. On another
completely different level, we’re dealing with
HIV, and when I do my studies and I had to go in and
deal with the Gay Men's Health Crisis -- I’m
thinking I’m going to be talking to gay men,
and [the social worker] is telling me that two thirds
of their clients are African-American women. And why? I
mean, straight women. Because black men are caught up with
this DL shit and are going out and infecting our
people, our women. And gay men are now smart enough, I
would hope, they know what time it is. We’ve been
educated. How sad is it for African-American women that they
are trusting these men that are on the fucking DL?

AIDS is on the rise again in young people, even
educated young people, so in another interesting way,
your film is dealing with AIDS in a way that I
think people have forgotten about it.
It’s almost like we were going to tell it
in modern times, and I thought it was important to
tell it during modern times ... I  thought it was
important to stay in the time period. 

Tags: film

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