Precious is about an illiterate, obese, African-American teenager living in 1980s Harlem. The film is based on Sapphire’s 1996 novel, Push. Precious’—played by Gabourney Sidibe—family is quartered in Section 8 Housing and collects welfare.
The film won six Image Awards, including best actress for Sidibe, best director, best film and best independent film.
Carl, her father, has gotten his sixteen-year-old daughter pregnant. Twice. While her mother, Mary, has furthered Precious’ bleak life by abusing her mentally, physically, and sexually. Her first child a—daughter with Downs Syndrome—is raised by her grandmother.
Eventually she is asked to leave school, for an alternative educational program. Her teacher sees that she is illiterate and Precious learns to read. A social worker begins to meet with Precious. Eventually the sexual abuse and rape at the hands of her parents is revealed.
Precious gives birth to a second child, a boy, named Abdul. After the child is born it is revealed that her father died of AIDS. Abdul tests HIV-negative; Precious tests positive.
Despite the diagnosis, Precious cuts all ties with her abusive mother. She intends to take care of her children and improve her education by completing a GED course.
Lee Daniels, who won best-director had trouble shopping the movie to Hollywood executives. “No one wanted to see a film about a 350-pound black girl who is struggling and who has HIV,” he said after his win.
Clearly, people did want to see a piece about a time not overtly chronicled on film. While the struggles of gay men with HIV in the ’80s are familiar in cinema, depictions of being a poor, black, single mother, with HIV is rare. Hopefully Precious will not only educate others about the issues of twenty-years ago but will illuminate the current struggles of women living with HIV today.