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The true story that inspired the film The Pursuit of Happyness

Film showing at Afternoon session this Thursday, 28th, Looking for happiness is based on the real life of Chris Gardner, an American who went through similar difficulties as the character played by Will Smith. In the film, Chris and his five-year-old son, Christopher (Jaden Smith, also the son of the reality actor), end up living on the street while his father does everything he can to support them in San Francisco, in the United States, in the decade 1980. The moving story earned Will Smith an Oscar nomination, but it only follows one year of Chris Gardner’s life.

According to Chris Gardner’s own memoir published in 2006, his childhood was difficult in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, amid poverty and with an absent father and an abusive stepfather. As a boy, he was housed in temporary homes for a few periods after his mother, Bettye Jean, was arrested after trying to kill her husband to defend herself against his attacks. After graduating from school, he spent four years in the United States Navy. Afterwards, he moved to California to try his hand at life.

While the film depicts Gardner in his youth as a failed salesman after investing in portable bone density scanners, he actually sold several types of medical supplies. In fact, when he was 27 years old, he had to sleep on the street, in public bathrooms and in city shelters with his son, but the child was only 14 months old — not 5 years old like Jaden Smith’s character.

Em Looking for happiness, Gardner receives the opportunity to intern at a large company after impressing an executive by solving a Rubik’s cube during a taxi ride. According to his biography, his internship opportunity at Dean Witter Reynolds arose solely from his communicative skills when meeting a stockbroker and passing a test, marking his entry into the financial market. Over time, he managed to become a successful stockbroker and currently gives lectures talking about his journey of overcoming. His fortune was estimated at $60 million in 2016, according to the BBC.

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