Skin by Anthony Fabian |Anthony Fabian, Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige | 741952684794 | DVD | Barnes & Noble


Director: Anthony Fabian

Cast: Anthony Fabian, Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige

A dark-skinned girl born to white South African parents attempts to explore her identity in the era of apartheid as her government, her parents, and society as a whole struggle with what it means to be a black child of Caucasian descent in a nation deeply divided by race. The year is 1955. Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) has just been


A dark-skinned girl born to white South African parents attempts to explore her identity in the era of apartheid as her government, her parents, and society as a whole struggle with what it means to be a black child of Caucasian descent in a nation deeply divided by race. The year is 1955. Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) has just been born to a pair of white Afrikaner parents, her brown skin and curly hair the surprising result of genetic throwback. As the government's rigid apartheid system struggles with whether to classify Sandra as white or black, the young girl and her parents gradually realize that the complications they face due to her appearance run deep and wide. Sandra lives in a society where the color of your skin determines the outcome of your life, and though she is eventually granted admission to an all-white school, she suffers endless torment from her intolerant classmates. Her father, Abraham (Sam Neill), is having a particularly difficult time accepting his daughter. Despite the fact that tests indicate he is her biological father, the neighbors constantly whisper behind their backs. And while Sandra's mother (Alice Krige) does her best to provide her daughter with understanding and emotional support, those consolations come at a high price for both mother and daughter. Her parents believe it's their daughter's birthright that she live as a white woman, though only after she grows up and falls in love with a black man will the conflicted Sandra finally find the strength to embrace her true identity as an African woman.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Sandra Laing, the real-life figure at the center of Anthony Fabian's social issue drama Skin, made international headlines with an unusual and achingly sad personal story, which Fabian uses as a testament to the emotional, psychological, and sociological fallout of apartheid. The child of white Afrikaner parents, Sandra (portrayed as an adult by Sophie Okonedo) was nevertheless born with brown skin, attributable to some unusual genetic quirk, and thus fell uneasily between the white and black communities of racially segregated South Africa. For Sandra, life became a tumultuous struggle over personal identity and a decades-long quest for belonging. And much of the conflict initially surfaced when Sandra's parents (played here by Alice Krige and Sam Neill) attempted to buck the color bar by sending their daughter to an all-Afrikaner primary school -- to the horror of racist instructors and administrators. On an emotional level, director/co-writer Fabian and his scribes, Jessie Keyt, Helena Kriel, and Helen Crawley, forge a fluid and generally cohesive biographical tale that hits many appropriate notes of despair, poignancy, and tragedy. Heartbreak and outrage are inevitable in this story, and the filmmakers never shy away from flashing the hideous face of bigotry -- from the lingering, accusatory stares of Sandra's classmates to the sadistic brute of a teacher who forces her to stand in front of the classroom and scream out the times tables while he whips her with a lash until drops of blood fall onto the floor. The film also incorporates a devastating scene that sums up Sandra's early identity crisis and naïve self-hatred, in which the girl (played by Ella Ramangwane as a youngster) responds to the intolerance of classmates by spreading bleach, cleanser, and other assorted cleaning solutions over her skin until it grows raw and bloody. The film remains predictable yet emotionally effective for its first third or so, but moves into more complex waters when it delves more deeply into the perverse attitudes and opinions of Sandra's father. As portrayed by the eminent Neill, Abraham Laing initially comes across as a courageous, upstanding, and loving dad, resolutely opposed to the bigotry that characterizes early '60s South Africa (evidenced via his insistence on sending Sandra to an all-white school), but we realize, as the picture rolls on, that all impressions of Abraham's intolerance to racism have been deceptive. As Sandra grows older, she begins to identify more closely with the black community and takes a black lover -- to Abraham's outrage -- and it becomes apparent that Abraham has simply bought into the racial typing and cannot bear the thought of his daughter being classified as black, hence his early insistence that the primary school identify his daughter as an Afrikaner. That transition represents a double-edged sword, and one that the film is not quite prepared to handle. On the one hand, the sudden revelation of layers within Abraham that we hadn't initially seen suggests a multidimensionality in the character and the film, but paradoxically, it also introduces one of the film's dramatic weaknesses. Abraham's regression, over the course of 30 minutes, from a sensitive, loving, and intelligent dad into a vile, uncaring, and inhuman monster unworthy of his daughter's love is so jarring that it strains plausibility. At perhaps his lowest point, he even swears that he'll kill his daughter and then commit suicide if he lays eyes on the girl again. According to reports about Sandra's life, the man actually uttered these unfulfilled threats, but as the film sets it up and presents it, it simply doesn't ring true, failing to gel with our impressions of the father presented in the first act. The film also suffers from another key weakness: in lieu of even attempting to arrive at a resolution about Sandra's racial-identity crisis (as she ends up rejected by both the white and black communities), it instead weaves the final act around the issue of maternal-filial reconciliation. It's not a completely unreasonable destination for the drama, certainly, but we need at least one scene that addresses Sandra's final sense of social belonging (or lack thereof); as it stands, the issue kind of trails off, and the filmmakers leave it hanging. These flaws are what hold Skin back from true brilliance, making it choppy and somewhat dramatically uneven. Many of the individual sequences, however, contain real emotional power, and the film does effectively pull the audience into the complex psychological and social adjustment experienced by Sandra, as a product of something that, in an ideal world, should have gone unnoticed.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Ent. One Music
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Behind-the-Scenes Featurette; Deleted Scenes ; Outtakes; Script Development Workshops

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sophie Okonedo Sandra Laing
Sam Neill Abraham Laing
Alice Krige Sannie Laing
Tony Kgoroge Petrus Zwane
Hannes Brummer Leon Laing
Ella Ramangwane Young Sandra
Danny Keogh Van Tonder
Ruaan Bok Henry Laing (age 10)
Bongani Masondo Henry Laing (age 20)
Kate-Lyn Von Meyer Elsie Laing (age 9)
Terri-Ann Eckstein Elsie Laing (age 19)
Jonathan Pienaar Van Niekirk
Ben Botha Dawie
Morne Visser Dr. Sparks
Burger Nortje Kobus
Gordon van Rooyen Judge Galgut
Tumi Morake Thembi
Zamanthebe Sithebe Young Thembi
Faniswa Yisa Nora Molefe
Nomhle Nkonyeni Jenny Zwane
Simon Mdakhi Joseph
Cobus Venter Johann
Leana Tryttsman Annie
Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe Anna Roux
Karien Van Der Merwe Nurse Beukes
Kaylim Willet Adriaan Laing
Onida Cowan Miss Van Uys
Lauren Das Neves Elize
Gladys Mahlangu Sangoma
Nicole Holme Miss Ludik
Zoea Alberts Girl in Classroom
Duane Saayman Boy in Classroom
Thami Baleka Factory Worker 1
Valesica Smith Factory Worker 2
Graeme Bloch Bailiff

Technical Credits
Anthony Fabian Director,Producer
Dewald Aukema Cinematographer
Paul Cotterell Sound/Sound Designer
Helen Crawley Screenwriter
Joe Dolce Associate Producer
Simon Fawcett Executive Producer
Genevieve Hofmeyr Producer
Hellen Kalenga Executive Producer
Billy Keam Production Designer
Jessie Keyt Screenwriter
Helena Kriel Screenwriter
Robbie Little Executive Producer
Alasdair MacCuish Executive Producer
Margaret Matheson Producer
Helene Muddiman Score Composer
John O'Rorke Editor
Laurence Paltiel Executive Producer
Jonathan Partridge Cinematographer
Marvin Saven Associate Producer
Moses Silinda Executive Producer
Noriko Watanabe Makeup
Scott Wheeler Makeup
Stuart Williams Associate Producer
Hilary Williams Associate Producer
Sue Wyburgh Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Skin
1. Scene 1 [9:48]
2. Scene 2 [11:07]
3. Scene 3 [10:07]
4. Scene 4 [10:45]
5. Scene 5 [9:00]
6. Scene 6 [8:02]
7. Scene 7 [8:31]
8. Scene 8 [10:08]
9. Scene 9 [3:29]
10. Scene 10 [11:05]
11. Scene 11 [10:00]
12. Scene 12 [4:38]


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