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A ‘Dark Girls’ Review

27 September 2011 No Comments

By Karen Welcome

Dark Girls is an uplifting film with the aim of eliminating self-hatred through the means of knowledge and exposure. The film builds an exciting opening with Dr. Cheryl Gillis explaining the history of prejudice and bias based off of skin colour as a result of slavery and colonism and addressing issues of colourism and pride arguing, “we have to understand our resiliency as a people.”

Dark Girls also features the thought-provoking testimonials of women who have experienced discrimination as a result of their skin colour and includes perspectives of men, the world and the media. While the testimonies were not the easiest to watch – from young girls admitting that they once wished they could scrub their skin colour off to men expressing a fear of having dark-skinned children – I craved more. I found them to be more effective than the observances of the professionals featured in the film.

It was refreshing to see people being so open and honest in conversations that usually occur behind closed doors. What was also uneasy to watch was the re-enactment of the popular doll experiment originally conducted by Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1939. A collective sigh moved throughout the audience as a young black girl pointed out the darkest child as the “dumb” and “ugly” child simply because she was black.

D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke

After the screening, directors D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke allowed time for questions and comments. While many expressed their thanks for a film that identified with the prejudice faced by those with darker skin tones, others argued that the film was not without its ironies. Audience members challenged the fact that quite a few of the women that provided testimonials had straightened hair.

What was also questioned was the presence of actress Viola Davis (providing an emotional testimony suggesting one’s insecurities can be overcome) who recently portrayed a maid in the film The Help and I wondered the same thing myself. I had a hard time connecting to Davis throughout the film being aware of my distaste for her portraying a maid, a character which is all too common amongst black women featured in Hollywood films. Interestingly enough, I was more attuned to the words of comedien Micheal Colyar who while also being hilarious delivered the message that discrimination is “about whether you accept it.”

D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke expressed that the idea for the film came out of personal dilemmas, stating the issue needed a voice and I feel that the documentary did just that. It provided exposure to the emotional turmoil these women face. I walked away content with the film’s overall message; the difference in our skin tones is nothing but a difference in levels of melanin. No matter what our skin tone, we’re beautiful, and we have to do our best to remind our daughters of their own beauty and worth so they don’t go looking for that reminder in all of the wrong places.

Berry and Duke have more films in the works including the upcoming feature The Yellow Brick Road which delves into the discrimination that is faced by lighter-skinned black women. As for Dark Girls, this sentient documentary is scheduled for screenings in Nashville and Chicago. The Dark Girls team encourages women to upload videos and share their stories at www.darkgirlsmovie.com.

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