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 1:00 AM ET

PUSH MO'NIQUE x390 (PUBLICITY) | Advocate.com 

Do you think it would happen in the exact same way
now that it happened then?
Yes, yes. “Did you get yourself tested?
No, we never did it up in the ass.” That quote
from the film is something that my cousin would say. I
showed it to my family over the Thanksgiving holiday. And my
little nephew who I’ve taken under my wing,
he’s 21 and he’s been HIV-positive since
he was 14 and he laughed from beginning to end with this
film because ... and I was crying as he was laughing.
Like, I can laugh sometimes, I think we all can laugh,
but ...

Yeah, but not through the whole thing… He laughed because he’s like Precious,
you know what I mean? “I ain’t got time
to think about dying, I gotta think about how I’m
gonna raise these kids.” People with HIV, they
don’t think about death. Mortality is ... you
don’t know of your mortality. You think you’ll
live forever.

What about the scene where Mo'Nique sort of calls
her out to “take care of Mama” and she
says ... and, I mean, I interpreted it one way.
You know what it is. Don’t play, you
know.

I didn’t anticipate that of all the things in the
movie, that was the one where I was like, “Whoa,
that’s even more out there than being raped
by your father.” But it makes sense because the
mother had a relationship with her daughter based on
submission, but I was really surprised by that
scene for some reason. It would never occur to me
to be sexually abused in that way. And to have her
called up to voluntarily do it.
The book is very graphic, so here it’s
very lightly hit upon, very lightly hit upon. Because
I couldn’t deal with it. But that book. Honey.
That book ... she’s eating pigs' feet ... and
that’s what made me do the book. This is what
made me option this book and go after it. This was the
most graphic scene in the book. She’s eating, the
mother is eating pigs' feet, you smell the stench of
her vagina, of her unwashed vagina. You have pigs'
feet juice slobbering from her mouth. And she says,
“OK, you took my dick, now it’s time for
you to be my dick. Get over here.”
There’s no way to show that on-screen. There’s
no way ever to show that on-screen.

Why not show it at all? The mother?

Yeah.I just think that ... poor Precious, you know?
It’s the ultimate. It’s just the worst.

Do you have any trouble as a gay man in the black
world? Does it make it harder for you to go into these
communities? And do you think that your being a
gay man within that community discredits you in
any way in their eyes or makes it an issue for them
seeing a film by you?
I know what you mean. I think that what it does
is that ... Obama’s president, and I think that
says it all. It’s changed. And that’s a
wake-up call for everybody. I feel fearless, I feel like I
can go right into those streets where I got my ass
whipped with this movie and say, “Take this,
pussy,” you know what I mean. I’m so proud of
it that I was able to go and show my homophobic
classmates the truth and that they were able to learn
from it. And that they were able to embrace it. And whether
or not they were able to embrace it because they perceive me
to be sort of famous, I don’t know. I think it
gives hope to young, especially minority and
impoverished Americans, because they have a different
mentality about the gay man. And it’s OK, kids,
it’s so fiercely OK to embrace and be proud of
it. I hope that’s it. That’s one of the
messages in the film.

Tags: Film

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