A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Genetic science was not well understood by common people in the 1950s when a dark-skinned girl was born to Abraham and Sannie Laing, white Afrikaners living in the East Transvaal of South Africa. History was also misunderstood, as white Afrikaners had been taught that their ancestors had settled an empty land long before the arrival of dark tribes that they forced to work their crops and mines. The idea that many of them were of mixed race seemed ridiculous to them. With their own prejudices against blacks, her parents raised Sandra as white, not preparing her for the protest that arose when they sent her to boarding school. Nor did they imagine the three decades of trouble dramatized by director Anthony Fabian in his 2008 film Skin.
With a talented cast from Great Britain, South Africa, and other Commonwealth countries, Skin portrays the pervasive prejudice of 1950s to 1990s. Shopkeeper Abraham Laing (played by Sam Neill) will not allow the blacks to hand him money; glaring at them, he taps on the counter when they try to do so. Other people stare at Sandra (played by Sophie Okonedo) when she goes into a restaurant with date who talks constantly of chicken farming. When Sandra’s racial classification is contested in court, crowds fill the courtroom and the streets. Her ever-changing legal status makes her life difficult, but is almost irrelevant in the end. She is seen as an outsider by everyone.
Skin is an excellent choice for film groups, for it is artfully made and has troubled characters with perplexing situations worthy of discussion. Viewers at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library were sympathetic and wanted to learn more about the Apartheid Era and current South African affairs.
Come to our next film discussion, A Farewell to Arms (1932), on Friday, March 16 at 7:00 p.m. The doors open at 6:45 p.m. The program is free. No registration required.