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Despite being born to Afrikaner parents, Sandra faces prejudice from her community due to her dark skin and African features. Torn between her family and the man she loves, Sandra must overcome the racial intolerance of her society in this uplifting true story. Starring Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill. Based on the best-selling book "When She was White" by Judith Stone.
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Ms. Okonedo plays Sandra not as a symbol of black struggle in apartheid-era South Africa but as a determined woman attempting to discover her true self. As a mature woman and mother, her Sandra still looks to heal psychological wounds inflicted on her as a child. South Africa's Population Registration Act of 1950 required people to be identified, defined, classified, and separated by color, but in Sandra's home town, folks were less intolerant.
O'Neill's Abraham is sympathetic as he attempts to have the law changed so Sandra can be classified by heritage rather than appearance, but also reveals himself to have deep-seated racism.
Bonus extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, and script development workshops.
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.
Abraham and Lannie Laing (Sam Neill and Alice Krige) are Afrikaans who live and work their general store in the countryside with their two children Sandra (Ella Ramangwane as the young Sandra and Sphie Okenedo as the mature Sandra) and Henry. The Laings have sequestered themselves because their daughter appears black. Abraham constantly defends the 'whiteness' of his daughter at every level of the government and finally the Laings obtain admission to private white school for Sandra and Henry. The school quickly dismisses Sandra because she 'is black', is beaten by teachers, and the school calls in doctors and other government support to back their opinion. But through the tireless efforts of Abraham he finally gets a certification of Sandra's 'whiteness'. Sandra faces intolerance from the community but finds solace in the attention of a 'kaffir', Petrus Zwane (Tony Kgoroge) and in time the frustrated Sandra accepts the warmth of Petrus and they fall in love. Abraham is furious and casts Sandra out of his home: Sandra and Petrus move into a black village and have babies until the whites demand the land on which the blacks are living and destroy Sandra and Petrus's home. Petrus turns to drink and blames his loss of all his goods on marrying a 'white girl': Sandra and her now three children move to Johannesburg to find safety and employment, having been rejected by Sandra's parents. When the Apartheid is banished Sandra becomes a spokesperson for her people and her country because she 'never gave up'.
In this history of the Apartheid the impact is made so very much stronger by the fact that the film shows both sides of the struggle - from the white viewpoint and the black viewpoint. Sandra's father may have fought against the prejudice but when his daughter accepts being black, he is as raw and prejudiced as the rest of the whites. Sandra's mother (played with compassion by Alice Krige) maintains her love and support of her beloved daughter but by societal demands she must bow to her husband's wishes. As Sandra Sophie Okenedo shines in a performance that is brilliantly three dimensional - she is an enormously gifted actress. The entire large cast is excellent, recreating a period in history we can only hope will never happen again. This is a wholly satisfying film. Grady Harp, August 11