Films & Schedules

  • Skin

  • Anthony Fabian

United Kingdom/South Africa
107 minutes

Production Company:
Moonlighting Films, Bard Entertainments, Elysian Films
Executive Producer:
Simon Fawcett, Robbie Little, Laurence Paltiel, Alasdair MacCuish, Moses Silinda, Hellen Kalenga
Anthony Fabian, Genevieve Hofmeyr, Margaret Matheson
Helen Crawley, Jessie Keyt, Helena Kriel
Production Designer:
Billy Keam
Dewald Aukema sasc, Jonathan Partridge
St. John O'Rorke
Richard Sprawson
Helene Muddiman
Principal Cast: Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige, Tony Kgoroge, Ella Ramangwane

International Sales Agent:
The Little Film Company

Sunday September 0708:45PM AMC 7 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Wednesday September 1009:30PM AMC 7 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 1309:45AM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

In 1955, Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) was born to two white Afrikaner parents in rural South Africa. But thanks to a genetic throwback, her skin was dark and her hair tightly curled. The government's rigid apartheid system was faced with a serious dilemma. Should Sandra be classified as white or black? For Sandra and her family, the complications ran far deeper.

Anthony Fabian's Skin follows Sandra as she grows up in a society where colour decides everything. She is granted admission to an all-white school, but suffers daily torment from her classmates. Her father Abraham (Sam Neill) is no more liberal than any other rural Afrikaner of his time; he can barely accept his daughter's dark features, let alone the neighbours' constant gossip. Even after tests establish that Abraham is in fact Sandra's biological father, the plain fact of her difference complicates life. Only her mother (Alice Krige) offers real emotional support, but it comes at a great price to both mother and daughter.

Skin's premise can feel like science fiction, so bizarre are the rules that buffet Sandra from identity to identity. She fails apartheid's infamous “pencil test,” during which a pencil is passed through her hair to see if it sticks. But her parents refuse to have her reclassified as black, fighting for what they see as Sandra's birthright – the right to live as a white woman.

Krige and Neill turn in terrific performances in this compelling, beautifully composed drama. Neill has always excelled at playing quiet, coiled rage, and here he conveys all the complex emotions of a man torn between his traditional values and the need to stand up for his daughter. And Krige is a marvel, her character's commitment to her daughter playing out in a precise, detailed performance.

As Sandra grows up and falls in love with a black man, Okonedo reveals the full spectrum of her character: the childhood hurt, the uncertain identities and, in time, her pride as an African woman.

Cameron Bailey

Anthony Fabian was born in San Francisco, spent his childhood in Mexico and England, and studied at the University of California, Los Angeles's Film & Television School. Skin (08) is his debut feature film.

Cadillac People's Choice Award