Now On DVD - 'Dark Girls' Seeks To Bring About Healing Via Discussion Of A Deep-Rooted Issue

Reviews
by Tambay A. Obenson
September 24, 2013 5:19 PM
11 Comments
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Editor's note: Bill Duke's and D. Channsin Berry's documentary, becomes available on DVD today, 9/24, for those who missed its broadcast premiere on the OWN network, in June.

The film does its job, which, from what I gather, is to engage the viewer on the particular matter it tackles; to generate conversation.

So if you’re watching it expecting to hear solutions or *fixes*, don’t; That’s not quite what the film sets out to do - at least, I certainly don’t believe so.

Filled with heartfelt testimonials that you’ll either empathize with, or dismiss (I include that as a potential reaction for some, given the varied responses to the film thus far on this site from readers), Dark Girls isn't a film I'd reductively classify as either "good" or "bad." It's more like a discussion with the audience, with the end goal being to hopefully get to some root or core of the shadeism/colorism issue that's long plagued, not just the African American community, but people of color the world over. Although it's unquestionably a work that's targeted specifically at black Americans.

It's a topic we've discussed ad naseam here on S&A, and that I'm sure many, if not all of you have had some meaningful encounters with, whether via your own firsthand experiences, or through conversations/debates on and offline. So I won't say the film, despite all the anticipation for it, is particularly new, which certainly isn't a criticism of it, by the way. Consider it more of a continuation of the dialogue we've been having here and elsewhere, for as long as I can remember.

If anything, its freshness lies in its format, in that, it essentially forces you to sit for its running time, and watch and listen to the many personal stories told firsthand by the many dark girls who feel branded like Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter, with dark skin as a kind of punishment/prison, thanks to how society - specifically what we call the "black community" - views them.

Not that the "blame" (for lack of a better word) is a burden that's placed entirely on the shoulders of black people. The film takes into consideration the long recent history of African people, as historians and psychologists (and other professionals in the mental health field), offer their own analyses on the why, where, what, whom, and how of the matter at hand, intercut with the many testimonials.

But thinking about it further, I actually won't say that there's any "blame" dished out. I would instead say that how you receive the film, particularly the individual real-life stories, will depend on your stance on shadeism/colorism, and just where you believe the "fault" lies. And I'd expect some might immediately get on the defensive, after seeing/hearing themselves described as, we could say, "enforcers" of the problem - essentially, like a mirror being held up.

And no matter how aware, thoughtful and progressive you might think you are, you'll be surprised to realize just how deep your/our own prejudices are, and where they are rooted; where your/our own standards of beauty come from (both men and women), and why we make the choices that we currently do.

So I won't be surprised if it's, for some, a moment of self-discovery - a revelation which might lead to your own tackling of your own prejudices, head-on. And even if you aren't able to completely be rid of them, you'd at least now be aware that they exist, which might then influence the choices you make, after seeing the film.

And even if you don't reach some form of self-realization, you will (hopefully) come to understand just how deep some of the wounds really are.

You could think of it as an extended, and necessary *family* therapy session.

Directors Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry smartly keep the film's running time relatively short to just 75 minutes; I say that because of the weight of the subject matter and its unfiltered delivery. Even the most compassionate might start to feel overwhelmed after a period of time. But, again, consider it part of an ongoing conversation - a 75-minute chat with family, broadly-speaking, on a deeply-rooted issue that affects us all.

The hope I'm sure is that the conversation doesn't end once the film ends, but that it continues, and that the post-screening conversation is just as honest and raw, as the declarations made within the film. As Duke himself said in an interview, what he expects to come from this is "to create a discussion, because in discussion there’s healing, and in silence there is suffering. Somehow if you can speak it and get it out, healing starts."

Indeed.

Look for a follow-up to the film that will look at the colorism issue from the other POV - the other POV being that of the fairer-skinned black girl/woman.

It's now available on DVD in September.

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11 Comments

  • AJ | September 29, 2013 9:58 AMReply

    Just like 'Good Hair' 'Dark Girls" shows that Black men should really do their research properly or just stop making documentaries on Black women. Just stop I've have seen better done by Black women like 'My Nappy Roots' and another done by women of color 'Shadeism'

  • Brandon Judell | June 25, 2013 1:34 PMReply

    This is a rather unsatisfying review. Why no quotes from the film? Doesn't Ms. Obensen take notes during a screening? What the reader gets is a whole lot of attitude but not a clear sense of what is on the screen. Once Ms. Obensen starts adding substance to her energetic meanderings, she will no doubt be worth perusing.

    Take the opening sentence: "The film does its job, which, from what I gather, is to engage the viewer on the particular matter it tackles; to generate conversation." Isn't that the goal of every documentary. This is basically wind.

    Sentence two: "So if you’re watching it expecting to hear solutions or *fixes*, don’t; That’s not quite what the film sets out to do - at least, I certainly don’t believe so."

    We still have no idea what the film is about? What is the problem? What's the difference between "solutions" and "fixes"? Why include both?

    I could go on, but what this young woman needs is an editor. Sadly, most online sites can't afford editors—or they are overworked to an unbelievably degree.

  • STFU | June 25, 2013 1:44 PM

    Interesting how you assume this writer is a woman since HE is reporting on DARK GIRLS. And you didn't even correctly spell his name. Have a seat and take some notes of your own.

  • ALM | June 19, 2013 4:34 PMReply

    By the way, can something be done to fix the punctuation issue in the comments section of S&A? Apostrophes do not transfer over well from word programming software to the comments box. Thank you

  • ALM | June 19, 2013 4:33 PMReply

    Even if “fixing” the issue was the film's goal (I noticed that you stressed that this is NOT the goal of the film), the film would still fail at that goal because this is such a deep rooted problem.

    You would have to change the way people think and change the way that people raise their children. Both changes are very difficult to make. The only way you can really go into people’s homes and change their level of thinking on such a mass scale is via the media, and you see how that has turned out so far.

  • CC | June 19, 2013 5:35 PM

    "Both changes are very difficult to make. The only way you can really go into people's homes and change their level of thinking on such a mass scale is via the media"

    ALM, that's not entirely true. It's a long walk to "freedom"... one step at a time, change/free yo' mind and those behind you may follow. That said, if you believe that change does start within, the apple, then, will not fall far from the tree. Meaning: We're all victims of our environment - in all it's complexities, least of which is the media, imo.

    I believe we rely on, give too much credit and power to the media. The end results being:

    "Many people fear nothing more terrible than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion (take for instance the media). The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody" ~ MLK

  • CC | June 19, 2013 3:58 PMReply

    *** Pay no attention to that man walking across the stage with that sly look on his face. His name is CareyCarey, after reading Tambays review he believes he knows something that other people do not know or that was meant to be a secret. But wait, it appears he's about to speak ***

    My-my-my, that's why Tambay is the HNIC who gets the big bucks around this neighborhood. He knows it's a crime (in most neighborhoods) to hit black women in their guts or agree with certain "elements" in this here house, so it was nice to see how he worded this review.

    In the previous discussions (as he said) "it's a topic we've discussed ad naseam here on S&A" with each voice (some, i.e., AKIMBO, BLUTOPAZ , MAWON, SAADIYAH, TAZ, ALM, and JMAC ) taking, in my opinion, some rather ambiguous and confusing positions. One even said the doc was about "shame". So it's was wonderful to see a few words (from Tambay) which cleared the air.

    In particular, listen to the following and see if any of his words/sentiments have been expressed in other discussions at this site:

    "Not that the "BLAME" (for lack of a better word) is a burden that's placed entirely on the shoulders of black people. [...] But thinking about it further, I actually won'T say that there's any "blame" dished out. I would instead say that how YOU receive the film, particularly the individual real-life stories, will depend on YOUR stance on shadeism/colorism, and just where you believe the "FAULT" lies. As Duke himself said in an interview, what he expects to come from this is "to create a discussion, because in discussion there’s HEALING, and in silence there is suffering. Somehow if you can speak it and get it out, HEALING STARTS"

    Hmmm, it seems as if I've heard those words before but said in another way:

    "Here we go again, the house is full of victims, perpetrators and the ambivalent... what we gonna do now? What is the goal/purpose of this doc and ensuing conversations? I hope this doc, future docs of this nature and the ensuing conversations are not another woe is me, point our fingers and bitch and moan session. Instead, I hope it's a foundation for CATHARSIS - HEALING!" ~ CareyCarey

    Yep, we've been here before but I'm not mad at those who took a more... how should I say it... a more angry view, because I understand something that has long been argued about race and color: that there is no way of getting beyond one's own impressions AND experiences to arrive at some larger, objective truth. Listen, I believe "real", "right" and the truth exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different story. Consequently, my hat is tipped to the visitor Amina for saying it like-it-is-from-the-jump.

    "I'm glad Oprah took on the documentary and I believe she will also schedule the 'Yellow Brick Road' for there are always a number of ways to look at any phenomenon. The fact that folks say that they suffer demands our attention and compassion. Period!!! ~ AMINA

    And... I am suggesting that "change" - in this arena -- is incumbent upon each person. We all face the largest dire consequences if a change of attitude (self-image) does not start within.

  • No | June 19, 2013 11:28 AMReply

    You mean people have to listen to 75 minutes of boredom: people sitting around complaining about who's dark and who ain't?

  • BluTopaz | June 19, 2013 12:06 PM

    "And I'd expect some might immediately get on the defensive, after seeing/hearing themselves described as, we could say, "enforcers" of the problem - essentially, like a mirror being held up."

  • Ebo T. | June 19, 2013 11:54 AM

    @NO...I completely agree. This whine fest of a film is a dead horse beaten to death.

  • Nadia | June 19, 2013 11:47 AM

    What an ignorant comment. You don't "have to" do anything. Just don't watch the film. It's clearly not for you, if the word you use to describe what the women in the film say is "boredom" and "complaining." Check yourself homie. It sounds like you're complaining yourself, which is even worse considering that you haven't seen the film. In fact, just shut up. SMDH.

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