Skin (2008), based on the novel When She Was White by Judith Stone, is one hundred and seven minutes of back-to-black racial foolishness. It is sometimes hard to believe that such bizarre stories can be based in truth, that so-called human beings actually behave toward other human beings this way. Over a thin layer of flesh.
Skin’s description is deceptive:
Despite being born to white Afrikaner parents (Sam Neill and Alice Krige), Sandra (Oscar Nominee Sophie Okonedo) has dark skin and African features—an unexpected legacy from her ancestors. Expelled from school and shunned by society, she begins an illicit affair with Petrus (Tony Kgoroge), a black man. Torn between her family and her heart, Sandra struggles against hardship and racial intolerance, and ultimately triumphs against all odds.
After watching teachers and students abuse Sandra Laing in school, my blood began to simmer. After watching her father refuse to touch a black man’s hand despite having a daughter who looks more black than white, my blood began to simmer vigorously. After watching how her father could hypocritically “love” his “black” daughter and hate black people (and have the audacity to be bewildered by white Afrikaners not “loving” his “black” daughter), my blood began to boil. Still, after all of that racist rubbish made me as angry as I could get, I found I was not nearly as angry as I could get.
Sandra climbs through windows to get in where she fits in and seems to be Petrus’ good luck charm. After having his shack and livelihood razed by a bulldozer, Petrus, naturally, is angry at all whites. Predictably, he turns to boozing and eventually against his wife and children. Sandra now, is not only her parents’ bad luck, but a black man’s bad luck.
After the layers of Sandra’s ordeal had unfolded and I was satisfied with the happy-as-can-be-expected-ending, to my surprise, like credits, photographs of the real family were included.
Lo and behold, though the pictures were suspiciously black and white, the real parents looked nothing like white actors Sam Neill and Alice Krige! That little piglet Sandra looked exactly like her roly-poly parents! Sandra’s skin was simply more olive (yellower) by comparison. And light-skinned or not, her parents’ knotty ringlets would have gripped a pencil as tight as Sandra’s thrice-curled naps did in the movie!
In the end, don’t be taken ablack when discovering that these Afrikaners are passing for white! And the reason these Afrikaners keep miraculously birthing zebras in South Afrikan colours is because—lo and behold—deez iz, in fact, Negroes!!!!
Yes, rent this South African foolishness. The lush green countryside, the red dirt, and the racism, if you’re from the South, will remind you of home. But for the sake of authenticity, the white cast should have been re-cast to be qualified for “reclassification as coloured.” Despite the flaws in pigment, it’s a decent movie*. But be warned: if you’re sensitive to senseless racism, please don’t forget to pop your blood pressure pill.
* Winner of more than a zillion festival awards including best feature!