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Richard Montoya on ‘Precious’

by Geoffrey Fletcher

“Precious” has a stripped-down realism that doesn’t have a filter on it, that allows us to get in the head of this young girl whom we’ve seen at bus stations and subways, and more often than not, we look the other way. There’s another teenage mom with two kids. We tend to scrutinize, vilify and judge and look down at the precious girls of our society. That movie allows us to care and go inside the world and go room by room into these dark little apartments and schools and hospitals where there’s life.

Watching “Precious,” I could feel the fierce authenticity. Geoffrey Fletcher knew and observed this world and may have even lived it. This is a dilemma for writers of color. I’m told, “Get out of your Chicano world.” But that’s what I know. I know the Latino experience. I don’t want to let go of that. “Write what you know” is what I learned at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. That is so important. And Fletcher respected that world of Precious without judgment, and that’s what makes his screenplay burst off the screen. That movie haunted me and transported me. I also greatly admired the director, Lee Daniels, and the performances. When Mariah Carey can appear in a film without a stitch of makeup, it is a brave new world.

Richard Montoya’s new play, “Palestine, New Mexico,” recently opened at the Mark Taper Forum.

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