- Title: USA: Apartheid-era film 'Skin' re-visits race debate
- Date: 5th November 2009
- Summary: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) SANDRA LAING, SAYING: "I did, ahh went to the scene where they were making the film and sometimes I would be sad because I remember everything that was happening to me. But through the film I am healing a lot."
- Embargoed: 20th November 2009 12:00
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVA13SRMCK0JI1F2DAUO52RCASU1
- Story Text: The traumatic life of Sandra Laing is re-lived in the new feature film 'Skin'. Set in South Africa in the 1960's the film explores the intense identity struggle of a black girl who is born to white biological parents.
Laing (played by Sophie Okonedo) is dealt a rare genetic kickback, she's born "black" but her mother and father are "white".
"Like everyone I was struck by the strangeness of the situation and wanted to know genetically what was going on. Black child, White parents, how does that happen? But I think the thing that really drew me to it was the emotional nature of the story it's a very powerful family drama," says the film's director, Anthony Fabian.
Angered by suggestions that he is not Sandra's paternal father, Abraham (played by Sam Neill) takes a blood test. The result confirms Abraham is in fact Sandra's father and reveals black ancestry buried in their DNA. Both parents were completely unaware of this history.
Following the confirmation, Abraham launches a lawsuit in an effort to classify his child as "white". It's a highly controversial and deeply confronting case for South Africa's Supreme Court. But, despite the odds, it is successful. Sandra is declared "white" and is allowed to attend "white" schools, sit in the "white" section of waiting rooms and dine in "white" restaurants.
For Sandra's parents their problems are solved, but in many ways Sandra's were just beginning. Attempting to traverse both a "black" and "white" identity proves too much for the young adolescent, who falls in love with a black man. Deeply upset by the new romance Abraham's rage and anguish tears the family apart, leaving Sandra with an impossible choice, to live life as a "black" or "white" young woman.
Ultimately her father disowns her and for the first time she has to live life as a 'black" woman under Apartheid in South Africa.
The memories were tough to re-live for the real life Sandra Laing who remained close to the film-making process. She would often watch the scenes as they were filmed.
"Sometimes I would be sad because I remember everything that was happening to me. But, through the film I am healing a lot." says Sandra Laing.
Fabian says the film's themes are as relevant today.
"I think the timing of the film is most important because the moment where, in the United States with a bi-racial president where issues of race are absolutely to the fore," says Fabian.
The film has received a positive response from audiences in South Africa and has also received a United Nations Peace Prize.
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