Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Roger Moore Says Idris Elba as James Bond is "Unrealistic" Because He's Not "English-English" Roger Moore Says Idris Elba as James Bond is "Unrealistic" Because He's Not "English-English" Dr Dre Hopes the N.W.A. Movie Will Correct Notions of the Group's Treatment of Women + Working on Inspired Album, More Dr Dre Hopes the N.W.A. Movie Will Correct Notions of the Group's Treatment of Women + Working on Inspired Album, More TV Casting Directors React to Deadline's "Ethnic Castings" Article (A Fad That Will Eventually Pass?) TV Casting Directors React to Deadline's "Ethnic Castings" Article (A Fad That Will Eventually Pass?) Taraji P. Henson Will Host 'Saturday Night Live' for the First Time in April (How Many Black Women Have Hosted?) Taraji P. Henson Will Host 'Saturday Night Live' for the First Time in April (How Many Black Women Have Hosted?) For White TV Writers Who Have Considered Racism When *Ethnic* Diversity Is Too Much For White TV Writers Who Have Considered Racism When *Ethnic* Diversity Is Too Much 'Key & Peele' "Substitute Teacher" Sketch to be Developed as a Feature Film 'Key & Peele' "Substitute Teacher" Sketch to be Developed as a Feature Film New Documentary Will Trace History of "Black Dandyism" (Trailer) New Documentary Will Trace History of "Black Dandyism" (Trailer) Best Performances By Black Actors/Actresses Ever? (Survey) Best Performances By Black Actors/Actresses Ever? (Survey) Tyler Perry Studios Forms Film, TV & Infrastructure Alliance w/ 4 Other Major Atlanta Studios Tyler Perry Studios Forms Film, TV & Infrastructure Alliance w/ 4 Other Major Atlanta Studios Watch: Kenyan Filmmaker Ng'endo Mukii Tackles 'Globalized' Beauty & African Self-Image in Award-Winning Short Film 'Yellow Fever' Watch: Kenyan Filmmaker Ng'endo Mukii Tackles 'Globalized' Beauty & African Self-Image in Award-Winning Short Film 'Yellow Fever' HBO Orders Steve McQueen's 'Codes of Conduct' to 6-Episode Limited Series HBO Orders Steve McQueen's 'Codes of Conduct' to 6-Episode Limited Series Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Alfre Woodard and Gbenga Akinnagbe are a Dysfunctional Mother-Son Pair in Trailer for 'Knucklehead' Alfre Woodard and Gbenga Akinnagbe are a Dysfunctional Mother-Son Pair in Trailer for 'Knucklehead' 'Single Ladies' Returns Tonight to a Rebranded Centric - "The First Network Designed for Black Women" 'Single Ladies' Returns Tonight to a Rebranded Centric - "The First Network Designed for Black Women" What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) 73 New TV Pilots & Series with Black Actors in Starring and/or Supporting Roles Ordered for Next Season. Here's the Full List 73 New TV Pilots & Series with Black Actors in Starring and/or Supporting Roles Ordered for Next Season. Here's the Full List HBO Seeks Diverse, Emerging Writers for HBOAccess Writing Fellowship HBO Seeks Diverse, Emerging Writers for HBOAccess Writing Fellowship Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Netflix Streaming Pick: Review Of 'Skin' (Starring Sophie Okonedo)

Shadow and Act By Wendy Okoi-Obuli | Shadow and Act February 22, 2013 at 2:03PM

Based on a true story Skin looks at the life of Sandra Laing who, according to the Skin movie website synopsis was the embodiment of a phenomenon I'm sure that most white South Africans at the time (and maybe even now) would like to deny existed: "...a black child born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners, unaware of their black ancestry. Her parents are rural shopkeepers serving the local black community, who lovingly bring her up as their ‘white’ little girl. But at the age of ten, Sandra is driven out of white society. The film follows Sandra’s thirty-year journey from rejection to acceptance, betrayal to reconciliation, as she struggles to define her place in a changing world - and triumphs against all odds."
4
Skin

Based on a true story Skin looks at the life of Sandra Laing who, according to the Skin movie website synopsis was the embodiment of a phenomenon I'm sure that most white South Africans at the time (and maybe even now) would like to deny existed: "...a black child born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners, unaware of their black ancestry. Her parents are rural shopkeepers serving the local black community, who lovingly bring her up as their ‘white’ little girl. But at the age of ten, Sandra is driven out of white society. The film follows Sandra’s thirty-year journey from rejection to acceptance, betrayal to reconciliation, as she struggles to define her place in a changing world - and triumphs against all odds."

Before I go any further I'd just like to negate any suggestion that it was about a cheating wife trying to pass of another man's child as her husband's. True, there is brief allusion in the film to the husband's supposedly unfounded suspicion and the fact that he abhors that his wife is so friendly with the kaffirs (blacks), but that's not what the film is about.

With strong performances all round, my fear of it being overly melodramatic was almost unfounded, even from Sophie Okonedo, who can be a little over the top at times, seeming to forget to draw the line between stage and film acting.

The first question that struck me within the first few minutes of the film was why her parents (played by Sam Neil and Alice Krige), despite her obvious physical appearance, decided to have their daughter classified and identify as white, ill preparing her for a life outside of their rural outpost. They go so far as to enroll her in an all-white school in which she's humiliated, alienated and finally forced to leave.

I can understand parents wanting to make a stand or to provide the very best for their child, but their level of denial, even to the point where they made her believe she was a little white girl, was never explored nor even how, given this was apartheid South Africa, she was even classified as white in the first place - especially when a particular scene goes to great and degrading lengths to explain and examine the physical traits that so obviously don't make the ten year old girl (Ella Ramangwane) white.

Her parents then also proceed, as she gets older, to make her go out on dates with young white men who obviously do so out of neighbourly civility or to satisfy their young white male curiousty, and this despite the fact that the dress her mother buys for her courting sessions is bought with Sandra having to give her approval from outside the department store window because she's not allowed into the building. As the movie was based on fact, this is just something that seemed like it could have been explored more intently, particularly with regard to how it affected Sandra emotionally and psychologically and even what was going through her parents' minds.

Another issue for me was the rather rapid infatuation, rebellious courtship, honeymoon and then separation between Sandra and her black husband, by whom she had two children. Given the film's 107 minutes and the fact that this seemed to be one of the few times in her young adult life that she actually found bliss, her relationship with her paramour (Tony Kgoroge) could have been better developed, particularly as he is virtually the only black male, aside from their son, portrayed in the film. As it was, it seemed as though it were just a set up to display how traumatic her forced separation from her white family was; an event that was no doubt tragic, but which was enforced by her father and later on carried out to the letter by her mother.

While the film did try to give Sandra's perspective, it still felt very much like the heroic saga of a white family who were willing to go beyond the pale to redress the shame of their ancestral lineage by drawing attention to the very thing, or person, which denoted this past shame, and with scant regard for the innermost feelings or perspective of their only daughter.

I watched the film with a reinforced feeling of what I've always thought, that in racially mixed societies, whites are the controllers and arbiters of the identity of anyone who doesn't share their skin colour; in this case, first it was Sandra's parents, particularly her father, and then the state. When Sandra decides to take control of her own fate and identity, attempting to reclassify herself as coloured so that she can live with her black husband and raise her coloured children, it's portrayed as a somewhat capricious, childish rebellion that is doomed to fail.

Despite these observations, however, it's a story that certainly deserves to be told and which, no doubt in part thanks to white liberal feelings in these "post-racial" times, has garnered many awards in its round of the film festival circuit and which I'd recommend, even if only for the originality of this infuriating tale, though not much for its sometimes haphazard and unfocused rendering.


Shadow & ActNewsletter