As I began to create this post with NO photo gallery… a little anxiety started to creep in. Photography was not allowed on this round but it was a good thing… pictures would not fulfill the depth of my experience and what I learned from this event. I had the incredible privilege of attending both the private media screening of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler ” in Atlanta and a press conference with Director Lee Daniels and Lead Actor Forest Whitaker!! This powerful film not “only” entertained… but changed my way of thinking.
The film tells the story of a White House butler ( Cecil Gaines) who served eight American presidents over30 years and highlights the issues that shaped American society during this time. Notable events from the Civil Rights movement to Vietnam and how those changes affected Cecil’s life and family.
Being able to speak one on one with the mind behind the film gave me the opportunity to learn and understand three core elements presented in this story: father-son relationship, fight for equality and acceptance.
The movie falls right into place with today’s issues such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin, LBGT rights and racial profiling. It shows us the struggle for acceptance and fight to survive from different perspectives but compels us to appreciate each of them. In our roundtable with Lee Daniels he discussed his own struggles including being black & gay man in America and challenging discussions with his son. “Teaching my son about drugs and sex was the easier conversations. How do I tell my son he may be looked upon as being less than equal?” said Lee. “I believe God had me to make this film for him”.
Having two young boys myself, I was overwhelmed with the father-son love story. Lee called it “the heartbeat” of the film. The father (Cecil) lived a tragic childhood but spent his life working to provide a good life for his own children. The son (Louis) lived a privileged life but fell in love with the cause for equality. Both men shared a common ground of social injustice but used different methods to conquer it. “My character was an open door for viewing different ways and people” said Forrest. “My son (character) was trying to find his way. He went through many different organizations trying to stand up for social injustice. The movie is conveying the message to stand up for human rights in our own way.”
This movie is a “MUST SEE”. It was fascinating to see the day to day functions of a real butler as it requires organization, skill, confidentiality and control. The movie is intense but gives us occasional breaks (as Lee mentioned) with humor and laughter. In theaters August 16!!
The film also stars Liev Schrieber, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyelowo, Jane Fonda, and Orpah Winfrey, who plays the butler’s wife.
Many thanks to Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and entire cast for this eye opening masterpiece.