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A timely look at racial equality in the film 'The Butler'


A timely look at racial equality in the film 'The Butler'

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It has been 50 years since Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and to mark the historic event Hollywood is offering audiences the opportunity to consider civil rights and racial equality.

‘The Butler’ tells the story of Cecil Gaines, an African-American butler at the White House who served eight presidents over a 34-year period.

A commercial success, the film has so far made the equivalent of over 40 million euros through ticket sales in the US. Some believe it could go all the way to the Oscars.

Director Lee Daniels said it started out as personal film he wanted to make for his 13-year-old son: “I did the movie because it was a father-son story and my son and I were bucking heads at 13 [years old] and I thought of me and my dad and the conflict that we had when I was a kid, and so it was really a father-son love affair that I was trying to get at, with a backdrop of the civil rights movement.”

Along with Forest Whitaker in the central role, the film features a star-studded cast including David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard.

Forest Whitaker was asked about the film’s message: “I think it is stating there are many different ways to go about fighting for social justice, you know? My son’s character fights actively in the civil rights movement and at some point my character, Cecil, decides that the – as Martin Luther King would say – ‘gradualness’ that I’ve chosen is not what I should do, not the path at that point in my life. And I decide to take another angle from my son’s point of view.”

Actor David Oyelowo plays Forest Whitaker’s son in the film. He said he liked its exploration of a family’s internal conflict.

“One of the things that I love about the film is that you see the internal conflict within a family to do with race relations and then the nationwide conflict when you see these presidents debating issues – while Forest is being a fly on the wall – that are directly affecting his community, his friends, his son and young people like us. And so that’s one of the sweeps in the film, but then you just have that thing that happens in every family – of a kid growing up, getting to the point where they’re like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to listen to you anymore, Dad. I’m going my own way’.”

‘The Butler’ starts its European release on September 5th.

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