Today we are on the eve of something momentous, and it extends beyond the next four years. Politics have strip mined the social conscience of the nation, revealing a fault line. The actual phrases spoken are circumstantial. Somewhere, somehow a cross-section of people took the talking points as matters of race. These people do not represent America, but they are continuing a discussion that concerns all Americans. Tonight AFI Fest is presenting a film that is very relevant considering the course and tenor that discussion is taking.
SKIN, by first-time director Anthony Fabian, tells the true story of Sandra Laing (played by Sophie Okonedo), a woman of mixed race born to white Afrikaner parents during Apartheid in 1955.
Unknowingly the Laings carried dormant black lineage that became irrepressibly dominant in their daughter. In spite of her taut curls and caramel skin, Sandra’s tortured, bigoted father Abraham (a fearless turn by Sam Neill) goes on a crusade to have her re-classified as white.
Abraham Laing succeeds at the supreme court level, but his victory dooms Sandra to alienation. Her crisis of identity is the driving force in her life. Being white on paper makes her eventual flight to the black population a punishable crime.
Director Fabian’s debut is focused, well crafted, and free of sermons. The film’s honeyed, warm palette is uncomplicated, deferring to a breakout performance from star Okonedo, who physically inhabits Sandra. Perpetually aware of the violence she inspires, terrified to speak above a whisper, she is nonetheless determined to assert her place in a fractured society that insists on choosing for her.
And to understand Sandra Laing is to recognize the greater impact of her mere existence: a single person as living proof of the hypocrisy, the impossibility, of racial division. We are already rebelling against policies of segregation on a genetic level, out of necessity.
Now we are in the final hours of a watershed moment in American cultural history and, regardless of who is elected, we are moving forward. SKIN is more than a stirring portrait. It is a stark reminder of what it could mean to turn back.
SKIN is currently seeking distribution. Hopefully that will change during November’s American Film Market here in Los Angeles.
Monday, November 3rd 7:00pm
ArcLight Hollywood 13
Thursday, November 6th 3:30pm
ArcLight Hollywood 14
To learn more, visit the movie’s page at The Little Film Company