Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Oct 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Color Bind

film_skin2White parents, black child-chaos, in affecting 'Skin'

Despite its title, the persuasive drama, Skin, is not about race. At least, it's not about race alone. Yes, the plot revolves around the true story of a black South African girl born to white parents during the shameful and divisive apartheid era. But on a larger scale, the issues of identity, otherness and separatism explored here could just as easily apply to a story about national, sexual, political, or religious intolerance, as well as racism—any of the artificial barriers that divide us from our fellow humans. Where Skin gains power is in showing how the effects of injustice can be just as devastating on those who wield it as on those it's wielded against.

The feature debut of director Anthony Fabian (who gets a story credit alongside screenwriters Helen Crawley, Jessie Keyt, and Helena Kriel), Skin dramatizes the true story of Sandra Laing. Played in the film as a child by newcomer Ella Ramangwane, Sandra is a bright, eager girl with a toffee-colored complexion and black, corkscrew curls, even though her parents, Pa (Sam Neill) and Ma (Alice Krige) are white Afrikaners, whose forebears were Dutch colonists. Her parents, who own a provincial post office and dry goods store, love their daughter without reservation, and while Sandra plays with the black children of her parents' employees, she identifies as white—right down to her favorite blonde-haired doll.

But in 1965, when 10-year-old Sandra is sent to her first boarding school, she's surprised that everyone thinks she's black. Her presence is so "disruptive" in the strictly segregated school, she's finally sent home (after a brutal caning for no reason in front of her class). Even more humiliating is the legal campaign her father launches to have her officially "classified" as white (including such scientific methods as testing to see if her hair is kinky enough to support a pencil). While a geneticist causes a mild uproar in court by testifying that virtually all white Dutch Afrikaners possess enough recessive black genes in the bloodline to produce a "colored" child, it's not until a law is passed designating racial classification according to parentage that Sandra becomes legally "white’ again.

Evolving from a carefree child into a shy, wary 18-year-old, Sandra (now played by the luminous Sophie Okonedo) resists her parents' attempts to set her up with a series of white Afrikaner boys who insult (or assault) her without a second thought. Instead, she falls in love with charismatic black vegetable gardener, Petrus (Tony Kgoroge), from a nearby shantytown. Not only is their relationship illegal (because she's "white"), it causes an irredeemable rupture with her volatile Pa that tears her family apart.

Sandra's odyssey to find a place where she belongs is heartrending, as she endures the stereotypes that society (and her own loved ones) continually project onto her. Her relationship with her father is the film's most complex; he genuinely loves her and encourages her with his motto, "Never give up." But while he's determined to fight for her rights, his own identity is so wrapped up in defending his masculinity (against the occasional insulting suggestion that he's not really Sandra's father), and his own privileged whiteness, he finally doesn't care how much suffering he inflicts on Sandra to prove them. Potential tragedy also haunts her relationship with Petrus, whom she can neither legally wed, nor shield from the dehumanizing effects of racism and poverty.

The film occasionally strays into an all-purpose Men-Are-Pigs philosophy, its women constantly manipulated and terrorized by the males in their lives. But film_skinoverall, with its fine performances and subdued intensity, Skin will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider for reasons entirely beyond his or her control, and who's had cause to know first-hand that separate is never equal.

SKIN ★★★ (out of four)

With Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, and Alice Krige. Written by Helen Crawley, Jessie Keyt, and Helena Kriel. Directed by Anthony Fabian. A Jour de Fete release. Rated PG-13. 107 minutes.

Watch movie trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher