The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

The Biggest Mistake I Made at Sundance This Year

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Yes, I was busy. And sure, I got to see 25 films and conduct about the same number of interviews with filmmakers in eight days. But why did I pass up two chances to see Lee Daniels’s Push: Based on the Novel By Sapphire? Exhaustion maybe. Besides, I couldn’t fit the premiere into my schedule without shuffling around a lot of appointments. Whatever. I knew I was missing something worth seeing. After the first press screening, plenty of my acquaintances raved about the film’s harrowing power. And I was generally intrigued to see how well Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey would come across in their raw supporting roles. Far from upbeat, Push tells the story of an obese, illiterate Harlem teen who lives with an abusive mother and is now pregnant—for the second time—by her father, and has just been placed at a new alternative school. Hard-hitting stuff, but the film went on to win a Grand Jury prize, an audience award, and a Special Jury Prize for actor Mo’Nique. Now the big news: Lionsgate, with the financial support of Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey’s respective movie companies, 34th Street and Harpo Films, has just acquired North American rights to Push for $5.5 million, making it the biggest deal at Sundance 2009.

That’s exciting news for Daniels, who produced The Woodsman and Monster’s Ball, among other indie-film projects, but only previously helmed a feature called Shadowboxer (I didn’t see it). He’s clearly a talent to watch. Now that Push will be getting a wide theatrical release, I don’t have to feel so bad about missing it in Park City. But I’d still like to have been on the vanguard for this one.

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