By Sailaja Joshi – Harvard University
In my first post about the issues of fair skin in our Indian community I mentioned the movie Dark Girls, which hit the Toronto Film Festival early this month. After mentioning it here on Brown Girl Magazine, I had an opportunity to speak with the film’s directors and producers, Bill Duke and Chan Berry, about their upcoming film.
When I spoke with Bill and Chan they were getting ready to promote their movie at the Toronto Film Festival in the hopes that it would be picked up for distribution. Here is a little bit from our interview, where the two men talk about the inspiration for the movie, the issues surrounding colorism within minority communities, and how to start the healing process.
What was your inspiration for the movie?
BD: Well, there were several layers of inspiration. My personal experience as a dark skinned black man, and what I went through in my childhood etcetera. But secondly, observing what my sister, my niece and other family members have gone through and also being aware of what young children today, are consistently going through, in terms of our own race. And what black peoples perception of beauty based upon the lightness of skin and the impact of that on young girls and young boys. I thought it should be talked about because, it’s not a hidden secret, but its not very well discussed or talked about.
The way the Dark Girl complex has developed has permeated other cultures, very much so among Asian and Indian women. In exploring these issues, did this come up in your documentary, the issue of skin color among other cultures?
CB: Yes, it does come up. We found out through the research that we had done thanks to our co-producer Braden French. We found out that, outside of the United States, the top five countries that chimed in on this of course were, first the United States, the UK, then Canada, then France and Germany. And then later on we find out that we see, Malaysia and Asian countries, and India and a lot of other places Haiti and Brazil, they chime in. And we found out that, that everywhere that is dark and light there is a problem between how people are treated, how women are treated. And going outside of that, you’re right. There are a lot of cultures, with women outside of the United States, especially in Haiti, India as you said, and other Asian cultures, that dealt with skin bleaching crèmes. So we do discuss this in the movie.
BD: There’s a section in the film called Global. And it’s a global analysis of colorism within several countries.
In exploring the issue of skin color prejudice within and outside of communities, do you think there is a way to lessen this issue or remove it all together?
CB: …I think that the most important thing is to realize that there is an issue first, and then to being to speak about it; to open up about it.
BD: I agree with Chan and I would add to that, that there is a sense of denial within our community. Within the Black, Hispanic, Indian community that this is an issue that has to do with colonialism and racism alone. And those are most certainly contributors to this phenomenon. And addressing your issue of the healing of it, that no matter where it comes from that parents are responsible for letting their parents know a couple of things. One, that God does not make mistakes; and number two that they are whole, beautiful, and good just the way that they were born. They don’t have to be something other, no matter what the beauty business or the kids on the school ground or a boyfriend, or another women might say.
While Dark Girls is not in wide release yet, the message of the movie is clear, that we are beautiful just the way we are. I think that is an incredibly strong message and something that we can take with us everyday. Hopefully we will all have an opportunity to watch this movie when it is released and start this discussion within our community.
In thinking about how the inspiration for this movie was based on Bill and Chan’s experiences as a dark skinned African-American men, look for my next article in which I will talk about the fair and lovely complex that is now plaguing men in the Indian community.