In your life, you are met with situations, things, and people that change you, enlighten you, teach you, move you etc…
Before I get into THE BUTLER I want to discuss life coming in full circle.
About 7 years ago (give or take) while I was in my first year at SVA (The School of Visual Arts) I was given the opportunity to intern with Lee Daniels. I had seen Monsters Ball and instantly knew that with Lee being the producer he was someone I had to work with…. and let me tell you, after seeing The Butler I am proud to have worked for him and would like to again (of course this time as an actor.) Once I graduated college I started working Sundance Channel and while there I had to work an event for a show called “Brick City” which shed light on Corey Booker and his reformation of Newark NJ. Anyway- Forest Whitaker served as executive producer for the show, I got to meet him at the premiere…yada yada yada. Now OPRAH. After Sundance I began working for my acting coach who was working with Ms. Winfrey on The Butler. I had the great task of preparing a binder for Ms. Winfrey of research material for the part. She called the studio one day for my coach and of course I answered the phone and almost fainted. Alright end of my circle and my Oprah moment…now back to business.
Very rarely do I preface a film with the word important, especially with the films that are being made today; but let me tell you, The Butler is an important film. Why? You may ask… well I will try my best to paint the picture.
As I sit here trying to find the words to explain my experience watching the film, I find myself unable to articulate it… I can only explain it as a sensation. As I was watching the film revisiting the plight of African Americans in this country, seeing footage and situations that I had read about in History books or saw in documentaries, I was suddenly hit with this enormous amount of pain. I was always hurt hearing and seeing these things, but for the first time I fully became part of my history. As I watched those incredibly hopeful, brave, selfless and driven individuals fight for the things that come so freely to me now, I no longer was an audience member, I became part of the film. My eyes were opened to a totally new side of the Civil Rights Movement. What I found truly beautiful is how Lee Daniels captured that delicate topic and juxtaposed it with the story of Cecil Gaines (The Butler.)
Cecil was a man who could perhaps be perceived as a “negro” with antiquated ideas. Seeing his journey as a child in the cotton fields of the south, then as an adult moving up north to find a better life (which is where The Butler title comes in) His dedication and the pride he had in his job took him right to the White House… and that is where the beauty begins. Seeing this man who is terribly passionate and proud about his job yet at the same time is constantly reminded of his “place” in society makes it quite an incredible situation for the incredible Forest Whitaker to play.
Forest Whitaker… I have no words. For me he is hands down my favorite actor. That instrument, that brilliance, that innate light that subtlety, that beauty… Forest Whitaker is EVERYTHING! Please just watch the incredible character choices he made. His physicality is PERFECTION.
Okay okay I digress….
With The Butler I found myself enthralled. As I watched the film I found myself collecting pieces of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and by the end I broke and had a crying fit in the theater. I had an experience. It’s one of those beautiful moments where everything you had been watching for 2 hours comes comes flooding forward and you are left with an incredible awareness by the end of the film. Like Lena Horne The character Cecil Gaines was a man who saw the south in 1926 and lived to see Barack Obama become president. Talk about full circle.
Please please go and see this film. If you have children take them. It’s important.