On the recommendation of some Nigerian friends, my wife and I grabbed a copy of "Skin" and sat down for a Saturday evening movie. We expected good things, but we were bowled over by the deep questions and emotion in this film, based upon the true story of Sandra Laing growing up in South Africa during the time of apartheid.
Sandra looks black. Which means she cannot be in a relationship with a white or even shop in the same store as the whites. But here parents are both white, and her mother swears that she has never been unfaithful. As Sandra heads to school, the color of her skin becomes an issue for students and parents, not to mention a heartless school master. Sandra's father vows to fight for her, and indeed the question of Sandra's identity is taken to the supreme court, where they judgment decades ago was based solely on appearance. Sandra is classified "black," but later, when genetics and heritage became the standard, her classification is changed to "white."
The problem is that Sandra now finds herself in love with a black man. Her father is outraged and goes to extremes to stop the relationship. Her mother seems to be on her side, but then turns against her, stuck between an angry, violent husband and their grown daughter. Sandra is forced to make choices, more than once, that deal with heritage, color, identity, and family. Does love cross these lines? Does love erase these lines?
In the end, "Skin" is a powerful movie, told with honesty, grace, hardship, and a cast of fantastic actors. The emotions range from humor to horror to sorrow to muted joy. It is a story that reminds us not only of the injustice of apartheid and racism, but of what it means to be human. I highly recommend it.