Claireece Jones finds Precious understanding

Like all the blogged accounts of presentations at the IdeaFestival, these are meant to be taken as impressions, not transcripts. Here are my impressions.

Shortly into the on stage interview with Lisa Cortés, the similarities between the character of Claireece Precious Jones and yesterday's presentation from Daniel Tammet became all too apparent. There is a universal desire to be known.

Lisa Cortés is an independent film producer with such films as Monster's Ball, and, of course, Precious, to her credit.

"Precious got made" because Ms. Cortés observed in 1996 that everywhere she looked on the trains in her native Brooklyn, people were reading "Push," the book by Sapphire on which the film is based. In the midst of familial disdain and abuse, this fictinalized young African-American woman was able to hold on to dignity, to find humor in a difficult life. Culturally, the book was tapping into something.

It took a decade, but she was able to secure the backing and financing to make it happen.

In response to a question about the difficulty of watching some parts of the movie, Cortés pointed out that the disdain of Mary Jones for Precious was difficult, and the fall of Precious down the stairs, which she lobbied to cut short, was particularly hard.  "That to me, is true horror."

While 85 percent of the film can be found in the book, the opening scene with the bright scarf, which served as a visual narrative device tying the movie together, cannot be found in the novel. But it helped the movie transcend language.

Speaking again to her role, she said that as a producer you're really schizophrenic. "It's freezing cold. You're signing checks. You're wondering why people are late and suddenly the director is asking 'an actor to cry again.'" Moving back and forth between the narrative and the practicalities of making a movie is jarring. Set against the emotional drain of filming such a movie, however, the interruptions were also welcome.

Asked about her favorite scene, Cortés picked out the s Egyptology wing of the museum when Precious realizes that she knows how to read, which segues into an awareness of a broader world ticking around her. "She could see herself in her totality."

Cortés encounters, she said, people of many different backgrounds who relate to Precious' desire to be whole, complete, known.

She subsequently did an IFTV shoot for which you'll want to watch.