Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TIFF 2011: "Dark Girls"' Strong Message Gets Under the Skin

In the documentary Dark Girls, there's a heart-breaking moment when a young dark-skinned girl acknowledges that light-skinned girls are both prettier and smarter.  The child hasn't lived many years, but she shockingly shares her opinion with the utmost certainty.  How does this happen?  Directors Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry (pictured below) explore this question and more in their new and revealing documentary.

[Co-directors D. Channsin Berry (left) & Bill Duke (right)]

The film captures the emotional testimonies of several black women (both young and old) who have struggled (or are still struggling) with their identity in America.  They each recount stories of discrimination within their own culture -- specifically targeting the darkness of their skin or the thickness of their hair. One mother shares a troubling time when her daughter asked to be bathed in bleach in an attempt to lighten her skin. Indeed, in many communities, perceived beauty is having light coloured eyes, fair skin and flowing hair (frank conversations with young black men corroborate this belief).  Together with educators and child psychologists, Duke and Berry examine this perpetuated prejudice on a historical, media and quantum physics level.  The result is a fascinating and illuminating film that speaks of an epidemic that is not exclusive in Black America.  The widespread use of skin-lightening creams in Asia is a testament that it's a global problem.

At the last TIFF Q&A, the filmmakers added that Dark Girls only scratches the surface of the complexity of race in America and that their next project will focus on black males, but until that feature is made, it's fortunate to have Dark Girls to spark the difficult conversation.

Currently, Dark Girls does not have North American distribution.   


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