Screenwriters Helen Crawley, Jessie Keyt and Helena Kriel adapt the strange life story of a baby with dark skin born of white Afrikaners in Eastern Transvaal. Initially classified “white,” she grows up whiplashed by the bizarre race logic of South Africa, and one day votes for Nelson Mandela. Sandra Laing is played by Ella Ramangwane as a girl. And later by Sophie Okonedo (“Dirty Pretty Things,” “Hotel Rwanda”) with a timorous downward visage and a smile that sparks with fugitive joy. Her parents Sannie and Abraham (Sam Neill and Alice Krige) love their daughter, hate bureaucrats and yet cannot transcend the insidious tethers of racism–their own and the state’s–that stigmatize their anomalous family. When pregnant Sandra runs away with Petrus (Tony Kgoroge) to Swaziland, the rupture with her parents is tragic in more ways than “Skin” can handle. Director Anthony Fabian arranged for the real-life Sandra to buy a house and open a shop with royalties for the rights to her story, but “Skin” by no means weighs the Kafkaesque contradictions born of a genetic glitch, familial loyalty and apartheid legality. With Bongani Masondo, Hannes Brummer, Ben Botha Lourens Groenewald, Nicole Holme and Danny Keogh. 107m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.