February 4, 2010
On Sunday,I took some Me time To Watch Skin, an independent film directed by Anthony Fabian. This film was one of several featured at St. Louis International Film Festival
Skin is based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a biracial girl born to parents Abraham and Sannie Laing, both of whom are white Afrikaners, and is set in South Africa during the apartheid era. because of what's known in genetics as a throwback, an anomaly in which the black genes in her parents' ancestry never manifested until she was born. Nevertheless, Abraham (Sam Neill) and Sannie (Alice Krige) raise Sandra as a white girl.
The young Sandra (Ella Ramangwane) is tormented in school by her classmates, the teachers, and the principal, because of her appearance. Consequently, the government classifies her as Coloured, and she's expelled from school.
Undaunted, her father goes to the highest court in the land to have her declared as a white person - which was widely publicized in the press at the time, during the late '60s - but is unsuccessful. However, later, during Sandra's adolescence, a change in South Africa's racial classification law allows children to be classified as the same race as their parents. In the eyes of the law, Sandra was now a white person.
Nevertheless, as a teenager, Sandra (Sophie Okonedo “Hotel Rwanda”) can never relate to white society because of her appearance, and ultimately starts sneaking off to go to the black townships of South Africa to be among those who look more like her.
The movie follows Sandra’s thirty-year journey from rejection to acceptance, betrayal to reconciliation as she struggles to find a footing in a prejudiced world. Desperate to resemble her parents and brother Leon (Hannes Brummer), she even attempts to scrub her skin white by using household cleaners when lightening creams fail.
With scenes carefully structured to tug at heart strings, particularly poignant is the test State officials perform to ascertain Sandra’s race. This involves seeing if a pencil delicately placed in her curly hair would fall out with a slight headshake. Okonedo puts on a breathtaking performance as an older Sandra.
All I can say is a heartbreaking drama, “Skin” is one of the most moving stories to emerge from apartheid-era South Africa and has already won numerous accolades.
For those of you who have seen Skin, feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment.