Dark Girls Documentary: Review

Several months ago I blogged about the upcoming documentary Dark Girls that was on tour screening at various locations around the country. Last week they held a screening at the Apollo theater in Harlem which I had a chance to see.

Sidebar: It’s been a while since I’d been inside of the Apollo and knowing it’s an old theater, I forgot how tight the seats are. Anyone who is tall or plus size would be well advised to sit in an aisle seat if you attend any events there.

Like many darker skinned women, I can recount instances where I experienced bias and feelings of not measuring up to what was considered the standard in mainstream society; that of the coveted light skinned, long hair, neither of which describes me. I don’t recall my earliest memory of bias, but I think what is most poignant in this movie is showing how early in life those messages are imprinted in a child’s psyche. Whether it comes from family, friends, media.

The documentary was a mix of interviews of scholars, ordinary folks, and featured actress Viola Davis, who recently starred in the movie The Help. Each gave an account on how their experiences of prejudice affected their self-esteem. Also shown was that well known scene of the young black girl interviewed by a child psychologist who when asked who is the prettiest when shown pictures of children with varying skin tones, points to the white child. Then when asked which child is the ugliest, points to the darkest skinned child. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I shake my head.

If you’re well versed on the issue of colorism within the black community, the information provided will be nothing new, but it was still entertaining and the major point of the film is that regardless of how many years have passed and how much progress the community has made, this issue of skin color preference still persists. There were funny moments as well as some that caused tears to be shed. Whatever your experiences may be as a darker skinned person in the US, there was something for everyone to relate to.

Afterwards was a brief question & answer session with the directors, Bill Duke, and D. Channsin Berry. Most of the audience response was positive with folks recounting their own experiences with skin color bias. However, there was one woman who for reasons unclear, seemed to be preoccupied with wanting to know why the directors chose to make a film about dark skinned girls first as opposed to light skinned women. Then became miffed when audience members expressed displeasure. The directors finally responded a film about light skinned women was already in the works, followed by a film about men.

The only drawback was that tickets were expensive. But the screening also served as a fundraiser to help with promotion & distribution. Some of the subject matter will be a little hard for young children to understand, but teenage girls would do well to see the film. Do try and check it out if it comes to your city.

Dark Girls Website

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