Producers Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness would seem the perfect honorees for the Stanley Kramer Award, given for work illuminating provocative social issues in an accessible and elevating fashion. After all, their acclaimed film “Precious,” based on the brutal and moving book “Push” by Sapphire, tells the harrowing but ultimately uplifting story of its ironically named heroine, a morbidly obese, depressed and abused teenager — wholly inhabited by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe — whose problems and pressures at school in 1980s Harlem are second only to the daily horrors she faces at home.
But Daniels, who also directed, and his partners (heirs to the TCI cable fortune and co-founders of Smokewood Entertainment Group, which previously co-financed and produced “Tennessee,” starring Ethan Peck and Mariah Carey) faced their own uphill battle to bring the project to the screen. The former theatre director, who’d grown up in a rough Philly neighborhood, had first met the author in 1998, two years after “Push” was published, and had tried to persuade the unconvinced writer that he was the right person for the job. It took several more years — and the release of 2001’s “Monster’s Ball” (which he produced) and 2006’s “Shadowboxer” (his directorial debut) for Daniels to win her over.