Filmmakers Explore Prejudice Toward Dark-Skinned Women Within Black Community

Ralf Nau

It’s rare when a documentary, particularly an African American one, sets off an avalanche of attention before the project is even released. Dark Girls has been an exception and for good reason. The film, still a work in progress, takes a look at the damaging affects of how far too many African-Americans uplift and desire Eurocentric standards of beauty at the expense of downgrading darker-hued women in their own race.  This issue is rarely spoken about, but it has hit a nerve with people of all races. In fact, shortly after a preview for the documentary was uploaded on Vimeo, more than 2.1 million people either downloaded it or read about it in more than 150 countries. Slated for a Fall/Winter 2011 release, the film is directed and produced by Bill Duke (Duke Media) and D. Channsin Berry (Urban Winter Entertainment). It is co-produced/edited by Bradinn French and line produced by Cheryl L. Bedford. The independent project, set to premier in October at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, is in need of funds to be completed. Duke and Berry’s goal is to raise $250,000 by July 31. They’ve raised, to date, slightly more than $4,700. Later they will work on the film, The Yellow Brick Road, which speaks to the issues surrounding women with light skin. Duke and Berry recently spoke to EBONY.com about it.

To see clips from the upcoming Dark Girls documentary, to make a contribution and/or post videos of your own testimony, visit: http://officialdarkgirlsmovie.com/

EBONY: The trailer of this documentary is absolutely powerful. It has really touched a nerve. Why do you believe that it has resonated with so many people?

Duke:    Well, I believe that it is something that strikes a chord, because it’s unfortunately something that’s prevalent in our culture and it’s not spoken of. And the fact that we addressed it, I think people are responding to it because it needs to be addressed. But, people, like, you know, we are the last to speak of our pain. So I guess, we’ve been taught that from a early age. But to have a vehicle that allows us to do that, I think people feel and they’re responding.

EBONY: What types of feedback have you received thus far?

Berry: You know, we’ve got 99.9 percent feedback saying, “We cannot wait to see that film.” “ We cannot wait to see this film.” “We’ve been talking about this quietly among ourselves, but never had an open discussion about until now.” It seems that the whole world is talking about it. We’ve got over 800,000 hits in 31 days [for preview], which is, you know, extraordinary. We’re getting responses from not only the United States, but the U.K. and Canada. But the top five are, like, France and Germany and the Netherlands. Then, we have Jamaica and Africa chiming in. So, it’s something that touched the whole world and we’re very, very happy about that.

EBONY: The masses often make blanket statements and assumptions that people only want to be entertained and to have side-splitting laughter at movie theatres. Isn’t the response to this serious documentary a testament that people are hungry for something to enlighten and feed their soul?

Duke: I think people are starving for what we call edutainment. We can entertain people, but we can also be conscious of some of the needs of, not only our culture, but society overall. We don’t have all the answers. But we do know that there are issues that need to be addressed through media and we want to be able to, not only with this project, but with numerous projects that we’re developing now, to be able to address those needs. And I think there’s a hunger for it. We want to fulfill that hunger.

EBONY: How difficult was it to push a serious subject like this? It’s an independent project? Is that why you went this route?

Berry: No, we’ve been independent for awhile. Bill definitely has and I definitely have. We choose to do things that aim at the truth. I think that’s the whole thing that we’re into and have been into for awhile, but it’s really shining a light on things now. We’re both about dealing with the past and bringing it to people. And by doing these documentaries, this is the part of the process. It’s an honor, but it’s also painful at the same time. Because when you open up the truth to many people, the pain on our people, you have to deal with the image. So it’s like, basically we’re putting a mirror up to ourselves and saying, “Look at us. This is what we are. This is who we are.” And these are the things we need to fix to become better human beings. Not just better Black people, better Black