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From Precious to The Butler – Gay African American Director Lee Daniels’ Controversial Fame By David R. Walker Prior to the premiere of director Lee Daniels’ film Precious at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, the audacious African American director was virtually unknown besides a producing credit for Monsters Ball which won Halle Berry an Oscar back in 2002. So when Precious received critical acclaim worldwide, suddenly Lee Daniels become known for his provocative film style and his courageous and intrusive way of tackling thorny subject matter from race relations to child abuse, AIDS, poverty and obesity. Precious won three awards at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the People’s Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival http://www.davidrwalker.co.za/2013/07/2009-tiff/ and went onto win Oscars at 82nd Academy Awards for Monique for Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher based upon the novel Push by Sapphire.  Lee Daniels was established in a way that Darren Aronofsky become recognised that same year for his own visionary directorial style in the landmark 2010 Oscar winning film Black Swan http://www.davidrwalker.co.za/2010/03/2010-oscar- winners/  . Lee Daniels growing up in Philadelphia was perhaps a victim of homophobia in the early seventies and throughout his adult life he was aware of an American society in the eighties and nineties which was ravaged by the AIDS pandemic as he witnessed close friends and lovers die of the once stigmatized disease. So now this openly gay African American film director at the age of 54 is hot property in Hollywood being alternately praised or booed for his films both sides of the Atlantic. Lee Daniels followed up Precious with a pulpy adaptation of the Pete Dexter novel The Paperboy starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConnaughey and the gorgeous Zac Efron which received a mixed critical reception at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. For his next film The Butler Daniels assembled an all star cast including Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Jane Fonda along with queen of the talk shows Oprah Winfrey, which chronicles the American civil rights movement in the 20th century through the eyes of a Butler who served seven American Presidents at the White House from Eisenhower to Reagan - http://www.davidrwalker.co.za/2013/11/the-butler/. The Butler  received rave reviews and has established Daniels as a film director to watch for his movies have broken down barriers of race, class and sexuality and while always maintaining a provocative edge. Whilst Lee Daniels has not shied away from controversial topics it begs the question for Pink Cinema  readers whether he will eventually make an explicitly gay themed film? Daniels was involved with influential Hollywood Cast Director Billy Hopkins responsible for such films as Se7en and Good Will Hunting and since 2009 has been in a relationship with Andy Sforzini an actuary at Prudential Life Insurance, a partner notably not connected to Hollywood, a world that Daniels has become both infamous and respected.
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Edition 006 - May 2015
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