Lionsgate announced today that it has acquired North American distribution rights to 2009 Sundance Film Festival sensation Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire. Directed by Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer), Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, only the third film in Festival history to do so. Star Mo’Nique was honored with a Special Jury Prize for acting.
Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire was produced by Daniels, and Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness under their Smokewood Entertainment Group (S.E.G.) banner; Lisa Cortes and Tom Heller were executive producers. The screenplay was written by Damien Paul, based on Sapphire’s 1996 book. Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire stars newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton (Deja Vu), Mo’Nique (Shadowboxer), Grammy® Award-winning artist Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd (“30 Rock”) and Grammy® Award-winning artist Lenny Kravitz. The deal marks the second collaboration between Lionsgate and Daniels, who produced the studio’s Academy Award®-winning Monster’s Ball. The announcement was made by Jason Constantine, Lionsgate President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions.
In an unprecedented partnership, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry will support Lionsgate’s distribution of Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, through their respective motion picture companies, Harpo Films and 34th Street Films. It will be the first film affiliated with Perry’s 34th Street banner.
“‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire’ is an extraordinary film about taking hold of life; to watch it is to be galvanized and uplifted,” said Constantine. “‘Monster’s Ball’ introduced Lee as a gifted producer; we believe ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire’ firmly establishes him as one of America’s finest directors.”
Said Daniels, “I know from my ‘Monster’s Ball’ experience that ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire’ has found the best home possible. I’m really looking forward to working again with smart, innovative friends at Lionsgate.”
Commented Winfrey, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment I saw ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,’ I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful – it split me open.”
Added Perry, “I am honored to join Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate in releasing Lee Daniels’ exceptional film. I was immensely moved by ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,’ and wanted to do whatever I could to help others share in its redemptive experience. Lionsgate is the ideal studio to shepherd this artistically courageous film to market.”
“We like to work with filmmakers who harness instinct and vision to compelling projects, creating motion pictures that resonate emotionally with an audience. That is why we chose ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,'” said Sarah Siegel-Magness, managing partner of S.E.G.
With sheer audacity and utter authenticity, director Lee Daniels tackles Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire and creates an unforgettable film that sets a new standard for cinema of its kind. Precious Jones (Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child – for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources. Don’t be misled – Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire is not a film wallowing in the stillness of depression; instead, it vibrates with the kind of energy derived only from anger and hope. The entire cast are amazing; they carry out a firestorm of raw emotion. Daniels has drawn from them inimitable performances that will rivet you to your seat and leave you too shocked to breathe. If you passed Precious on the street, you probably wouldn’t notice her. But when her story is revealed, as Daniels does in this courageous film, you are left with an indelible image of a young woman who – with creativity, humor, and ferocity – finds the strength to turn her life around.