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Skin

2010-01-26 12:25
 
Skin review

What it's about:


Ten year-old Sandra (Ella Ramangwane) is a conspicuously African looking girl from a remote area in the Eastern Transvaal. Her parents, are Abraham (Sam Neill) and Sannie Laing (Alice Krige) - white Afrikaner shopkeepers. Despite her mixed-race appearance, Sandra’s lovingly brought up as a ‘white’ little girl until she is sent to boarding school, were her looks do not sit well with teachers and parents, and the Afrikaans community at large. At 17, Sandra (Sophie Okonedo) realises that she is never going to be accepted by the white community. She  feels more at ease around black people, and thus falls in love with Petrus  Zwane (Tony Kgoroge) — a black, local vegetable vendor, and begins an illicit love affair which tears her family apart.

What we thought:

On first glance of this movie, I vividly recalled when Okonedo received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her breathtaking portrayal of the wife of a Rwandan hotel manager played by Don Cheadle in the genocide flick Hotel Rwanda. I also recalled when she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in a movie about a disaster of another kind, Tsunami – The Aftermath.

"Why?" you ask. Well, I recall those two roles because this performance is not that different, therefore not giving us much insight into her flexibility as an actress, but nevertheless, affirming her as one of the best actresses at depicting characters going through hardship and suffering.

Believe it or not, at 41 years of age, Okonedo is able to inhabit Sandra as a 17-year old through to her 50s. She is a unique character, a young woman who is faced with the conundrum of being a white girl trapped in black skin, and is thus shunned by the white community in which she resides. The pain - both physical and emotional - is dramatically portrayed by Okonedo who herself comes from a mixed-race family (Nigerian father and Jewish mother). This certainly must be a very personal role for her.

Even so, at certain points as the tape continues to roll, she struggles to maintain a South African accent, and her British vernacular is clearly exposed more often than not. That doesn’t do justice to a movie that centres on a South African character. Her breathtakingly convincing performance, however, overrides the “accent” issue and more than makes up for that.

New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who plays Sandra’s father Abraham, pulls off a spell-binding and emotionally raw performance that demonstrates that old adage "blood is thicker than water". Being a firm, Afrikaner who evidently upheld apartheid, he nonetheless loved his daughter, and this tension comes alive in the film. SA’s very own Tony Kgoroge plays Petrus, Sandra’s forbidden lover. A classic Romeo and Juliet  tale ensues, but this one has a rather different twist – with Romeo, turning into a drunk and abusive husband when the going got tough.
 
It’s also worth mentioning that young Ella Ramangwane (who plays Sandra at 10), though new to the big time,  delivers a strong performance which points to a bright future with the right training.

The heartbreaking tale journeys from the apartheid 50s through the years leading up to SA’s change to a democratic nation in the early 90s. We are given an in-depth outline of the discomforting truth about where we were as a nation then, and this depiction is made all the more poignant by the startling fact that it is based on a true story – that of Sandra Laing who was born in an apartheid stricken Piet Retief in 1955. I bet you are asking yourself why such a clearly significant story of a born in such controversial circumstances is news to you?. Why is the release of this film the first time many South Africans will learn of her plight? (There is however a book called When She Was White: The True Story of A Family Divided By Race by Judith Stone)

Skin is an emotional rollercoaster, depicting a family painfully separated by colour. It’s a story about forgiveness, but most importantly, one about the triumph of the human spirit. 


Sophie Okenedo shines in the role of Sandra Laing, a black girl born to white parents in apartheid South Africa.

Zola 2010/01/21 7:46 AM
I read the book and it was heart wrenching. I cannot wait to see the doc.
Bit-chi 2010/01/21 8:51 AM
When will the "apartheid" thing end. We are so sick of movies, talk shows, live shows, propaganda and you name it. Live in the past and there can be no future. Look to the future and make the present pleasant.
John 2010/01/21 9:49 AM
Were any dna tests done on the child. Could it be that the father was not the father. Is it possible to have a offspring that has features unlike the parents. Does one of the parents have a black mother or farther.
dee 2010/01/21 10:00 AM
According to what i read. The mother or father had black ancestors in the family they didnt know of.
AnneR 2010/01/21 11:32 AM
I would love to see this movie and I hope that we can learn lessons from the past which will not repeated in the future and that is to respect and accept people irrespective of their culture, etc!
Afrikaner 2010/01/21 1:05 PM
As John says: were there ever any DNA tests done, especially paternity tests? I am inclined to agree with Occam's Razor: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. While it's possible that there was a throwback to a black ancestor, this is highly unlikely. A much more likely explanation is that, due to human nature, the father wasn't who we are told he is. It would make perfect sense for a woman in those days to have kept her miscegenation quiet.
Tinky 2010/01/21 2:33 PM
Jean, you are very stupid and need to wake up. Just because there are different nationalities doesnt mean that people cannot intermarry or have relationships you ediot.
Mongameli 2010/01/21 3:28 PM
Her father was a black man FULLSTOP!!!
Zandi 2010/01/21 4:12 PM
Paternity tests were done and it was proven that Abraham was Sandra's father
@Afrikaner 2010/01/21 4:14 PM
Guess where you originated from. I know you have some dormant black markers in your DNA somewhere. And now you know why you sometimes feel that atraction to the coloured girls.
J Bekker 2010/01/21 6:24 PM
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You said it Bit-chi, we are sick of the same old theme from the past i'm pretty sure we find can more interesting and entertaining material if we tried. Is this the only legacy we have?
Mpho R 2010/01/21 7:32 PM
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About 10% of white South Africans have a black lineage!! Read the Sunday Times of 2 weekends ago. I have also realised that Jews regard themselves as white in this country. Can somebody tell me why as to my understanding the white looking Jews are an interbreed with mostly east europeans - what we call coloureds in RSA speak? You can see that some portugeese (especially the men), spanish & italians don't have a classic western look as well!! Middle eastern interbreeding during the Roman empire, I suppose.
@Bit-chi 2010/01/22 8:49 AM
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I am sure you would be the first to go and watch. There's nothing wrong with movies like this. It's nice to watch movies off the past. And this is a true story. So it's not an "apartheid thing". Grow up and have an open mind. If you don't like it, then don't watch it. People have a very limited understanding about apartheid. I enjoy reading about the past and learning bout it.
PRESHEN GOVENDER 2010/01/25 7:22 AM
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i also do not know why North Korea and South Korea are fighting if they are both Chinese
UN-PC 2010/01/29 9:02 AM
@Preshen Govendor. Are you serious? Do you know anything? I have noticed you comment on just about everything on the articles and columns on channel 24, However you hardly make any sense, and your comments rarely bear any relevance to the actual article. Attention seeker? Empty barrels make the most noise. North and South Koreans are in fact, not Chinese. They are Korean, they speak Korean, and live in Korea.
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