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Sapphire's "Push" Sequel Too Gritty for Film Adaptation?

by Jasmin
July 7, 2011 12:40 PM
20 Comments
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Hot on the heels of our previous post about her new novel The Kid, Sapphire sat down for a revealing conversation with NPR, which may give a hint as to whether the book will see a transition to the big screen anytime soon.

We've questioned whether The Kid will itself be adapted for film as its prequel Push, which made for a raw account of abuse and despair in Lee Daniels' Precious. But if movie audiences were disturbed to see the life of Claireece "Precious" Jones portrayed on screen, they may be in for an even bigger shock with the story of her son Abdul in The Kid.

In the interview, Sapphire explains that part of what makes the novel so graphic is the character's facility with language - the fact that Abdul is able to read, write, and express himself better than his mother could in Push. But the other challenge presented by The Kid is that unlike his mother, Abdul eventually succumbs to the cycle of his abuse and becomes a victimizer himself, leading to scenes of brutality that will be difficult for readers, and possibly viewers, to digest.

When asked why she chose to use such graphic realism with the abuse in the novel, Sapphire says, "Part of the reason why it's happening is because we don't want to go there... being unable to even handle this, being unable to even look at the fact that children who have been drawn into certain cycles of abuse are capable of really horrendous things."

She adds, "I wanted to show the horror of what this is, but I also wanted to show this beautiful little boy who is basically an innocent, and how he is transformed by the horror of his experiences."

Such horror could be an obstacle for any screenwriter tasked with adapting the story, since the hallmark of a good drama is a sympathetic main character that the audience can root for, and I'm hard-pressed to think of any recent films where a sexual predator is still regarded as the hero.

Still, considering the frenzy that surrounded Precious, whether this novel will make it to film is anybody's guess. We're keeping our ears to the ground.

For the full NPR interview, click here.

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20 Comments

  • CareyCarey | July 10, 2011 9:07 AMReply

    Darkan said; "I totally agree with you Misha!!!!"

    Et tu, Brute? Say it ain't so Darken. Tell me you're not following the whispers and the smell of sweet purfume that's emanating from our young fine sistah, misha? Don't be a trick for love.

    Damn man, I thought we were brothers of the same struggles but now your nose is wide open for misha... with 3 exclamation marks... !!!

    Okay, I know when to cry uncle and raise the white flag, but Darkan, when or if you start agreeing with sonofbaldwin, I'm gonna call 911, cuz you done lost your rabid mind *LOL*

    And misha, you've worn me out on this one. You get my blue ribbon Award of Valor. But since you poo-poo awards, I'll simply bid you adieu. :-)

  • Darkan | July 10, 2011 8:08 AMReply

    I totally agree with you Misha!!!!

  • misha | July 10, 2011 7:49 AMReply

    @CareyCarey, I am sure you've heard all the criticism against Push, Sapphire and Precious and yet you remain steadfast in your opinion so I have no desire to rehash an old discussion.

    I will say that I find it fascinating that you put so much stock in awards, as if they are a true measure of one's worth and talent. All awards shows, since their inception, are steeped in politics and thus mean very little to mean in regards to judging talent.

    Lee Daniels? Let me just say that the man has serious issues...issues that he projects onto his characters and movies. What a pity.

  • CareyCarey | July 10, 2011 2:17 AMReply

    **wiping sweat off my brow**

    Wait a minute Misha, you had me worried, so let me take another sip of my red cool-aid. When you didn’t return I thought you got kidnapped or had lost your spirit. :-)

    But now that you’ve returned I feel much better, but look, me worked up? Well, I can manage to get it on for 20 minute spurts. Oh yeah, I can beat the sh*t out of these keys in short bursts. But after the thrill is gone, I jump up, put my PC on sleep and go back to doing what I was doing. But baby please, although you said you’ve read Push, you’re gonna show your hold card if you keep talking. I mean seriously, why on earth would you direct some sort of negativity toward Lee Daniel? Listen, again, great minds in the business thought he was worthy of a nomination for the DGA award. You have heard of the award, haven’t you? **stinking out my tongue**

    “am I to deduce that Monique won an Oscar for her portrayal of the complex and realistic Mary? BWAHAHAHA!!!!


    See, keep talking because you‘re the only one laughing. Maybe you don’t understand realistic, three-dimensional, complex characters? But tell me, why do YOU think she won the Oscar in a landslide? Oh, I know, you’re part of the secret conspiracy crowd who believes white folks gather in secret underground hideouts to vote on which black actor depicts the black culture in the most negative light. I mean, it couldn’t have been Monique’s acting that I thought was one of the best performances “EVER” by a black actress.

    But Miss Misha, let’s bring this home. In your opinion, what are the negative affects of movies such as Precious and The Kid?

    You’re on the clock :-). No googling for answers.

  • misha | July 9, 2011 10:58 AMReply

    @CareyCarey Wow, you sure are worked up over this, huh? LOL

    First off, if you noticed, my post wasn't even 3 lines long so surely you'd figure that your description ("detailed contructive criticism") would produce a hearty chuckle from me, right?

    Secondly, I've read Sapphire's novel, Push and to say that I'm not a fan would be an understatement indeed. Thus, I have no desire to watch Precious, especially with the likes of Lee Daniels at the helm.

    Lastly, am I to deduce that Monique won an Oscar for her portrayal of the complex and realistic Mary? Excuse me but...BWAHAHAHA!!!!

    Speaking of bamboozled.....

  • CareyCarey | July 9, 2011 1:32 AMReply

    Darkan, after further consideration I could have had a V8. Maybe you were saying the average viewer does not go to the movies to receive a deep soul searching experience. They prefer to be bedazzled bamboozled and stroked. Yep, I'm hearing and feeling several examples of mystical wonderment and fake tear drops... Pursuit Of Happiness, Rocky Balboa, Medea Goes to Church, John Q and Sex in The Ghetto.

    Let Jessie Jackson sing "Keep hope alive" because deep thinking is the hardest thing for humans to do. Please don't bring me no bad news.

    On a side note, I just watched "Skin" (yesterday). Now that was deep! It was deep and sad, but it was a very good movie.

  • CareyCarey | July 8, 2011 12:28 PMReply

    My man Darkan, we were doing so good ( thick as thieves - in agreement :-)) but now we’re at a sharp fork in the road.

    But first, I have to champion Bobby Ray’s comment. “subjects like this is just what you call “real life.” It happens. These stories need to be told. I think films are another medium that can be used to teach a certain topic that a lot of people may miss out on”

    I say absolutely! Yet on the other hand, I am yet to hear the naynay crowd address the issue of - “if these stories ARE NOT told, then what“? Seriously, I want someone to tell me their vision of the negative affects of movies (stories) of this nature vs. the positive. I am not asking how it made the reader (one reader/viewer) feel. No no, that opinion rest in the heart of those that may not see the importance and rewards of movies/stories of this nature. And for the most part, those voices are coming from individuals up in the bleachers who are detached and distanced from the pain and misery of those that find themselves struggling with hard core gritty issues.

    It’s easy to talk negatively about Leon, Precious, The Kid and those that are raised well below the poverty line and raised by parents who passed down the wrong torch. But to live that existence is a reality to millions, which does not always have a happy ending; the odds are against it.

    re: “There can be no healing if the resolution and end result is ALWAYS grim” and “What a horrible way to depict black culture and shed light on a very touchy topic” and “It is a story that thinks finding something to hold on to get through the horror is redemption, when the only true redemption is escape, education, and economic security”

    WHAT?!!!

    Listen, from the beginning of a problem to the end, there’s a space of time called the interim. Within that period, it’s safe to say a myriad of issues will surface. There can never be resolutions, solutions, nor hope if the whole story is not told. How can there be? How can one begin to fix something if they don’t know what’s broke?

    In reference to the stories of Precious and The Kid, throughout the whole story there are moments in which bad decision are made by the victim and the victimizer. At that period, those midpoint periods in the story, there are lessons to be learned. If those incidents were not present in the storyline, we wouldn’t even being discussing them. No problems, then hell, no need for education on the subjects.

    I am not even going to address “horrible way to depict black culture”. It’s not a depiction. It’s a horrible reality. Turning a blind eye and misrepresenting the facts will only assure that the “problems” will grow in magnitude and ignorance will reign supreme.

    “Hell, I wished they’d stop showing movies and writing books like The Kid and Precious. They ain’t my story, so I wish they’d just go away. They’re too damn gritty and real for me. They may have several redeeming qualities for the millions that have actually experienced the aforementioned storms of life, but hell, they should just get over it. Who needs to talk about that sh*t?”

  • CareyCarey | July 8, 2011 8:25 AMReply

    "I myself have experienced the personal horrors of being in the child care system/sexual and physical abuse and would love another part of the story to be told is all that I’m saying. So the experience is this for the viewer of the film…"

    Okay Darkan, I believe I understand your viewpoint. And if I do, I believe you are missing an essential element of the learning process. The premise of your argument suggests/implies that in the case movies, there has be what you consider a happy ending in order to keep hope alive, which I believe is far from the truth. You also mentioned the emotions you and others received/felt by watching movies such as Pursuit of Happiness. If you stop and think a second, what emotions were you experiencing? What brought on the tears? I am going to suggest that it was not “HOPE”. Now don’t buck the thought, think about it again. Hope did not bring those tears.

    But lets move on to something a little deeper. Since we are talking about emotions, what emotions inspires a person to change? I am suggesting, and it’s my professional opinion that feel good emotions are NOT the impetus to lasting change. If you like, use yourself as a reference, I believe hope, good intentions, and feel good stories are great, but pain and unanswered questions are the stumbling blocks that keeps the majority of people stuck in their ball of confusion. Movies like Precious and The Kid expose the core elements; the roots of the pain and thus begins the possibility of a healing process.

    Darkan, I believe at the core of this issue are the underlying elements of emotions, pain, and what makes a person change. How does one begin to discharge their pain, to begin a recovery process? I believe it begins by exposing the core of the problem, not by picking at the scab, nor by running from the issue.

    The learning process.... When Does Your Life Become Important, and when will we change, and how do we change?

    Is it when we become seriously ill with some disease that John Hopkins can't cure?
    Is it when a love one or family member we adored has passed this life? What emotions must we confront, accept and deal with on a constant basis in order to get to the other side?

    In short, all of use may not have experienced sexual abuse, but it’s safe to say all of us has experienced some source of serious pain and struggles of life. The antidote to mental pain and the healing process begins when the source of said pain is exposed. Conversations ensue and secrets come out of the dark. As they peak their heads out of the clouds and it’s okay to talk about it, others with similar problems/situations/predicaments join the discussion and bring their personal journeys and solutions to the floor. And tears of joy do not move mountains.

    How does one break the downward spiral of a legacy such of Precious or anyone who has been dealt a foul hand?

  • Darkan | July 8, 2011 5:26 AMReply

    Here's a what one reviewer said that sums up my thoughts EXACTLY! READ BELOW!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "I read Push before it was ever called Precious, and found it to be depressing, sickening, and ridiculously over the top. I'm not saying the stuff in Precious don't happen to children all the time, just that they don't happen to one child all at once. The film is a whole other story on top of that. But, where the reviewers said the movie ended with hope and an a strong spirit, I saw the looming death sentence, the poor and pathetic childhood of her children that she decided to keep instead of like any decent human being give away to people who could properly take care of them. This book is the result of a decision that people lauded in the book and the movie, and shows what was left for the children when an uneducated, aids infected woman leaves two young children to a harsh system of poverty and ignorance.

    The book has its moments, those gut wrenching moments that make you both sick and intrigued. Abdul is a unique character, a strong story is written around him, and yet I can no more recommend this book, then I could Push to other people. It is a disturbing book, filled with every horror story you hear. All it's really missing is the satanic ritual sexual abuse and mass rape that young children usually think up when they are poked and prodded by psychiatrist on whether or not they were abused. It is a story that thinks finding something to hold on to get through the horror is redemption, when the only true redemption is escape, education, and economic security.

    This book, like her last, and like the movie of her last, lacks that true core principal of redemption. Fifteen years later, we'll probably read about Abdul Jones with five baby mama's, getting out of prison, and trying to go straight and take control of his life once again. For a woman who has taken control of her life, she seems to like to linger in the darkness of her soul, and torture her young protagonist, with hopes, I guess, that the work will seem accurate of the downtrodden, or with hope that the upper middle class white people that are likely to read this book--since if the children of Harlem actually picked up books to read, in twenty years, there would be no more poverty in Harlem.

    This book is a male version of Push for all intents and purposes, and I have no doubt that it was written with the urgency of capitalizing on the movie of her novel. "

  • GHost | July 8, 2011 5:15 AMReply

    “Oh lordy, why are they showing our dirty laundry” crowd.
    -----------------------------------
    Who needs a movie? We do a good job of that on our own.
    There are stories about US killing our babies before Colored Girls came out. Smart black boys getting killed by Pookie and Ray Ray and so on.

    Go ahead and make the film with its horrible endiing. Maybe it might knock some sense into folks about how they are raising thier kids or to speak up and help kids in horrible family situations.


    How can one begin to fix something if they don’t know what’s broke?

    Folks know stuff is broke. It's the question of what are you willing to give up to fight it.

    How many black boys are career criminals because thier hoods SUPPORT thier behavior?

    They think being thugs, welfare cheats and druggie are acceptable because those behaviors get support.

  • Darkan | July 8, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    I hope this film never sees the light of day. Just from the synopsis alone it seems like everyone in her book is a molester or is raping or sodomizing someone. Especially the males. What a horrible way to depict black culture and shed light on a very touchy topic. At least in "The Color Purple" despite it's flaws, some of the characters as rotten as they were had some redeeming qualities in the end and we as the audience were left with the promise of hope. None of her stories are. I left the viewing of Precious with a sick feeling of how she didn't have one strong male figure in the story and how the story ended. (Please don't mention the underused and weak portrayal of THE LENNY KRAVITZ as an example.) Being in your face is not always about shocking someone. There can be no healing if the resolution and end result is ALWAYS grim. The boy ends up institutionalized for God's sake. I can watch documentaries that does better in at least trying to show some hope. I'm still wanting my 2 hours back from the Precious fiasco. Please support people who are making a difference in helping people who have been abused by giving to foundations and such rather than this touched individual who clearly from her writing has an agenda of some sort. I won't be supporting this one through book or film! God help us!

  • Bobby Ray | July 8, 2011 4:04 AMReply

    I say it should be done. Life is life, no matter how hard it may to watch, read or accept. It may be heart-wrenching to view, but subjects like this is just what you call "real life." It happens. These stories need to be told. I think films are another medium that can be used to teach a certain topic that a lot of people may miss out on.

  • Darkan | July 8, 2011 3:45 AMReply

    Sorry Carey, I'm talking from personal experience on this one. I myself have experienced the personal horrors of being in the child care system/sexual and physical abuse and would love another part of the story to be told is all that I'm saying. So the experience is this for the viewer of the film... After the lights go up and everyone clears the theater in the mind of the viewer is the thought that there is NO HOPE, just despair. Remember... films help people to grow by viewers relating with what they see on the screen. How would one be able to feel that their life can be any different if all they see the main protagonist go through is negativity and in the end there isn't even the slightest glint of hope or light at the end of the tunnel? Senseless. Hell, even in the Passion of the Christ after taking us through the extreme ugliness of torture and the crucifixion Mel took the liberty of showing Jesus rising from the grave. I remember watching the pursuit of Happyness and the profound affect it had on the audience that I viewed it with. People were crying after the viewing because it left the viewer with a sense of hope. It spoke that no matter how bad things could be there is a reason to live and that things could get better. I know that the aformentioned subject matter differs greatly but you get the understanding of what I'm trying to convey. Two other films that I believe touched on the subject as well was a fictional film called the Prince of Tides which IMHO was well made and The Antwone Fisher story which although it struggled and had its flaws as a film, brought great attention to the matter. I totally agree with the exposing of the subject, I just believe it can be executed better to help people to heal rather than just shock which is all that Precious did. It reminds me of all the talk shows during the mid 80's to mid 90's where the shows would spend 45 mins shocking the viewer and exposing an ugly subject then close to the end of the hour they would introduce a therapist to speak for about barely 5 mins on the subject. What a joke. Remember Precious and The Kid are works of fiction based on true circumstances which means the writer could write in a sense of hope if she chose to but didn't because she wants to shock that being her disillusioned view and contribution to the world. Their are MANY true life stories of young men who suffered in similar manner that the Kid suffers but overcomes their adversity. I being one of them and I over came my adversities! God Bless You!

  • CareyCarey | July 8, 2011 3:25 AMReply

    "I still can’t bring myself to watch Precious"


    And yet you're voicing your opinion about it's content? That makes no sense at all. How can you give a detailed constructive criticism of a movie that you have NOT seen?!!!

    That's as ridiculous as saying you hate the smell of roses but you've never smelled them. I guess this is a case of ignorance being bliss?

    Shame shame shame.... who said there were not three-dimensional, complex characters in the movie Precious? I don't believe I've heard anyone say that, and I do not believe Oscars are given to one-dimensional characters. Nor would the director be nominated for the DGA award.

  • Neziah | July 8, 2011 3:01 AMReply

    It would be the token black Oscar bait, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see it adapted, I'm a sick bastard.

  • misha | July 8, 2011 2:51 AMReply

    I have no desire to read this book or watch a film adaptation of it. I still can't bring myself to watch Precious, as I prefer movies with three-dimensional, complex characters not caricatures engaging in one horrendous act after another.

  • sandra | July 8, 2011 2:48 AMReply

    I had a stronger stomach in my teens for some reason. After 'Manchild in a Promised Land', 'The Coldest Winter Ever', 'The Color Purple' and 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X', I'm wrecked.

    I'm going to add this with Precious et al. i.e. the list of books that I'll have to pass on. LMBAO

  • CareyCarey | July 8, 2011 2:15 AMReply

    Thanks Jasmin,

    This was a needed and poignant post/subject on so many levels. Where do I begin? Well, having read the prior post and jumped in the fray, I couldn’t wait to see how others viewed Precious, which I thought would subsequently lead to similar opinions on The Kid. So, after reading your post I clicked on the link.

    BAM! Out of the gate I was thrilled to see the actual NPR program was there for my listening pleasure. It’s always nice to hear the mind behind the drama, in this case the author of The Kid and Precious, whose friends call her Sapphire. She was so well spoken, assured and confident that I knew I was in for a few minutes of great listening pleasure. On top of that, the host, Michelle Martin, was on her job, she was ready and skilled at what she does so well.

    The program opened and they went straight to the core. .. Legacy! As I’ve said before, I like to view that word as the relationship between the apple and the tree. But here’s what inspired my first real leap for joy. They played a clip from the movie Precious that I’ve used in the defense of Precious and what I’ve always believed is one of the elements that many has missed in their haste to discredit the movie. Now, I can’t do the scene justice by my written word, but if anyone is interested, I suggest clicking on the link. Monique’s clip comes at the 5:22 mark. In short, in essence, she is just like her momma.

    Sapphire and Michelle went on to discuss the backdrop of Monique’s character, Mary Jones, which leads back to Precious and the dynamics behind The Kid. And you know what, it’s hard to admit or understand, but it’s an ugly truth that the abused frequently become the abusers.

    Let me stop. I can see right now that my comment in this medium/forum can not capture all I have to say about the interview, the books, the movies and the depth of the word "legacy" and how it relates to the movie business (and black folks in general). There’s obviously so much to consider when we talk about the viewing public’s opinions of “too graphic” and “too gritty”. I can immediately hear the voices of the “Oh lordy, why are they showing our dirty laundry” crowd.

    I am reminded of some folks opinions of slavery and rather or not it can, and should be captured (all it’s grittiness and horror) in a movie, and who can accept it’s truthfulness.

    Anyway, imo, I believe the interview and the article are must “reads”.

    Thanks again Jasmin

  • Law | July 8, 2011 1:50 AMReply

    Ironically enough, Lee Daniels second film "The Woodsman" has a pedophile as the main character (played by Kevin Bacon).... So it's possible for a savy screenwriter to do the impossible - which shouldn't be so impossible if Saphire succeds in doing so in the book.

  • Tamara | July 8, 2011 1:44 AMReply

    since the hallmark of a good drama is a sympathetic main character that the audience can root for

    Yes.

    Reading her quote on this character makes me flinch simply because it is quite difficult first to write characters like this but to translate that to film can be even tougher. And audiences don't always want tough, difficult, uncomfortable. They don't want The Woodsman, Kids, Fish Tank, Requiem, Young Adam, etc. Those are just a few examples of films that for me wrecked my movie-loving soul. Tough to take, though well-acted/directed.

    Still, let fiction reign. If somebody can do this and do it well, then go ahead. Or don't go ahead.

    Will have to watch the interview later. I read PUSH. Once. It was hard, too. I don't know if I'll give this book a read or not.

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