"The Butler," directorLee Daniels' New Orleans-shot historical drama, has already won over theAmerican movie-going public, dominating the box office two weeks running. Andnow it has won over one of America's most powerful movie critics: President Barack Obama.
In an interview with radiohost Tom Joyner that was broadcast Tuesday (Aug. 27), Obama said he "teared up"watching the movie, which is inspired by the real-life story of anAfrican-American man who served as White House butler to eight presidents, fromTruman to Reagan, and which is set against the backdrop of the American CivilRights Movement.
"I teared up thinkingabout not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entiregeneration of people who were talented and skilled. But because of Jim Crow andbecause of discrimination, there was only so far they could go," Obama said, asreported by The Hollywood Reporter. "And yet with dignity and tenacity,they got up and worked every single day and put up with a whole lot of messbecause they hoped for something better for their kids."
In addition to praising theperformances of lead actor Forest Whitaker and co-star "Oprah (Winfrey), mygirl" -- an outspoken Obama supporter -- the president also shared hisexperiences with the White House service staff, who he said couldn't have beenmore welcoming when his family first arrived at the executive mansion.
"When Michelle andthe girls and I first arrived, they could not have been kinder to us and warmerto us," the president told Joyner and co-host Sybil Wilkes. "And part of it, Isuppose, is they look at Malia and Sasha and they say, 'This looks like mygrandbaby,' or, 'This looks like my daughter.' I think for them to have a sensethat we've come that far was a powerful moment for them, and certainly apowerful moment for us. We love them to death. They look after us justwonderfully."
Whether he realizesit or not, Obama is becoming a fan of New Orleans cinema. "The Butler" was shotalmost entirely in and around the city, as was one of his favorite films fromlast year, "Beastsof the Southern Wild." Like "The Butler," that film also got a specialWhite House screening, and it also drew raves from the president and wifeMichelle Obama.
His praise for "TheButler" comes at a particularly appropriate time: Today (Aug. 28) marks the50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's Jr.'s "I Have a DreamSpeech," a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
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