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Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe in town for Macon Film Festival. Here’s a Q&A

Women in Georgia’s Film Industry

A panel at the Macon Film Festival discuss why it matters if there are women in leadership positions in the Georgia film industry.
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A panel at the Macon Film Festival discuss why it matters if there are women in leadership positions in the Georgia film industry.

Oscar-nominated “Precious” star and “Empire” actress Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe was in town Saturday for the Macon Film Festival.

The 36-year-old actress, director and author was the festival’s special guest for the 10th anniversary screening of Lee Daniels’ 2009 film, “Precious.”

Sidibe made her film debut as the title character in the movie.

She was also expected to screen her own directorial debut short film, “The Tale of Four,” at 7 p.m. at Macon’s Grand Opera House, and take questions from the audience.

Sidibe spoke with The Telegraph earlier on Saturday afternoon. Here is an edited version:

Q: Tell us about your time in Georgia? What do you think about Macon?

A: I’ve been in Macon, I think it’s been just under 24 hours. So far, it’s really great … I’ve spent a lot of the time in the downtown area of Macon. … I already went shopping.”

Q: Any ties to Macon or Georgia?

A: My mom is from a tiny town called Lumpkin, Georgia … A lot of my family still lives in Georgia … In fact, last month, (we) have like a big family reunion every year and our family reunion happened to be in Macon … I didn’t go this year just because I was working. But usually there’s like a meet and greet like on Friday nights and then Saturday, there’s like a big family outing. I think everyone went to the Tubman Museum. Then there’s a banquet that night and Sunday there’s usually a brunch.”

Q: I understand your film, “The Tale of Four,” is based on the song, “Four Women,” by Nina Simone? Why did you chose that for your directorial debut film?

A: My producer partner, Kia Perry. It was actually her idea. ... She was sort of mesmerized by (the song) and told me about her idea to turn it into a film, and I had not heard it before. So she played it for me, and immediately I could see exactly how the film would unfold and what it would look like and who would be all the players. But I hadn’t thought of directing it at the time.

And she was going to direct it and do a GoFundMe for maybe $20,000 so that she could do it. ... The song itself licensed for $20,000. So a year later, Refinery 29’s ... Shatterbox films, they do this thing every year where they grab about 12 female filmmakers and they ask them to make a film and they provide the budget for it.

So they asked me to make a film, and I knew that was the one … I said to my friend, Kia, why don’t we just make it. Why don’t you let me direct, and we’ll find a writer, and we’ll have it come to life, and we’ll have a bigger budget than the GoFundMe would gather.

That’s really how the project came about. It was really her idea, but it also was a song that I fell in love ... The song is like four minutes long but (Simone) really, really, really sings these women to fruition. I could see them so clearly. So, it was really easy to sort of lift it out of the notes and put it on the page and then put it up in front of a screen.

Q: What lesson do you want people, especially women, to take away from the movie “Precious”?

A: I guess what I really, really want for people to take away is the need for kindness. She goes through so much. We never really know what people are struggling with. We have no idea.

Obviously, Precious isn’t a real person. She’s an amalgamation. The book, “Push,” that “Precious” is adapted from, was written by a writer, Sapphire. She was at one point a teacher, and Precious is an amalgamation of all of these students that she met along her way as a teacher.

And so Precious really is everybody. It’s everybody, and it’s anybody, and I hope that when viewers are watching it, that they see not only themselves but other people in their lives and it reminds them to be kind.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in an industry that’s generally been led by men in the past?

A: What does it mean to be a fish to be wet? I am a woman, and this is my industry, and I’m sure that there have been things that haven’t gotten along further or that have been stopped because of my sex. But also, I mean, I’m never not going to be a woman in this industry and I’ve never not been a woman in this industry and I get things done. (laughs)

People always ask me what do you do when someone says, “No.” If you ask me I’ve never been told, “No.” I just think, I ignore it. So any pitfalls that I might have experienced by being a woman in this industry, maybe they didn’t make as much of an impact as they could have or should have. I’m having a great time. I tend to do what I want, too, which is really great.

Q: What is your impression of the Macon Film Festival?

A: I think it’s really, really cool that they show films on the dome … I’ve never heard of another festival that does that. I love planetariums and I love leaning back and having all of my eyesight on the screen. I think that’s really, really gorgeous and beautiful. I think it’s a really cool film festival.

The Macon Film Festival continues Sunday.

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