Rebecca Hall’s Passing Says The Most In The Silences

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-11-19 22:40Z by Steven

Rebecca Hall’s Passing Says The Most In The Silences


Christine Jean-Baptiste
Montréal, Quebec

Passing opens on a busy street in 1920s New York. A mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) is roaming through Manhattan. In this part of town, she anxiously hides behind a wide-brimmed hat covering half her face. It’s every bit intentional. When she later settles down in the grand tea room at The Drayton Hotel, she stays camouflaged among a sea of lily-white couples. As she people-watches, her eyes lock on an almost unnoticeable old friend, Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), who blends in perfectly with the crowd.

In her directorial debut, Rebecca Hall takes on an ambitious adaptation of Passing, a 1929 novel written by Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen about two Black women who live parallel truths: one, Clare, is passing as white, and the other, Thompson’s Irene, envies the privileges that come with the act. When it first premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Passing was touted as a “psychological thriller about obsession, repression, and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities.” But the film is less potent than its subject matter. Instead, race identity in America is a soft whisper that is meant to haunt instead of educate.

Though both of these light-skinned Black women have shared a similar upbringing, Irene and Clare could not have grown further apart. Irene lives in Harlem with her two children and charming husband (André Holland), who is Black. Clare has dyed her hair blonde and lives partially in Europe with her daughter and racist husband (Alexander Skarsgård), who is white. After catching up over champagne in Clare’s suite, the dynamic between the two women tightens, emphasized by the enclosing camera shots. While Clare seems delighted to be reunited with an old friend, Irene appears hesitant and reserved. It doesn’t make Irene any more comfortable when Clare says dating a rich white man is “well worth the price,” implying that she’s comfortable passing as a white woman and benefiting from it. Or when Clare’s husband walks in, expressing his gratitude for Clare’s “whiteness.” Irene soon realizes that her childhood friend was now someone with a secret, because the man who hates Black people so much did not realize his wife was one…

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“What Is The Emotional Legacy Of A Life Lived In Hiding?” Rebecca Hall Honours Her Family’s History In Her New Film Passing

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-11-19 22:19Z by Steven

“What Is The Emotional Legacy Of A Life Lived In Hiding?” Rebecca Hall Honours Her Family’s History In Her New Film Passing

Vogue UK

Rebecca Hall

Molly Cranna

For her directorial debut, the British actor brings to life the novel that helped unlock the meaning of her family’s heritage.

The elucidation of a family’s history, like the history of a nation, is never straightforward or simple. The truth is stated baldly and then denied, hedged or partially retracted. The same stories somehow become less and less clear with each repetition. Clarity is elusive, and perhaps its pursuit is even unkind – why probe something so delicate as the past? And when it comes to questions of race, what answers could ever be satisfying?

My mother, Maria Ewing, was born in Detroit in 1950. Her father worked as an engineer at McLouth Steel in the city, and was also an amateur painter and musician. It was in part his love of music that propelled her to leave home at 18 and, in an improbably rapid fashion, transform herself into an international opera star. My father, Peter Hall, was born in Suffolk, the child of the local stationmaster. He went on to found the Royal Shakespeare Company and forge his way as one of the most significant British theatre directors of the late 20th century. Both products of working-class backgrounds, my parents each became part of a global cultural elite, and both of them thoroughly reinvented themselves in order to do it.

Growing up with my mother – now the former Lady Hall – in the English countryside, there was always some mystery around her background. Within the opera community, she was spoken about as “exotic”. When I looked at my mother, I always, my whole life, thought she looked Black. But there was no factual basis for that, and it was a tricky subject. When I asked questions such as, “Your father, maybe he was African American? Was he Native American? Do you know anything?” she just couldn’t answer with any degree of certainty. Not wouldn’t – she couldn’t. She simply didn’t have any hard information. She knew that things were hidden, that she didn’t know any of his family members, that she just didn’t understand certain things. To an extent, I think she had accepted a degree of vagueness about her own identity. Maybe, for her, that vagueness, that mystery, was simply part of her lineage, something that she had no choice but to accept. And as someone who lived in circumstances that were quite distant from those she grew up in, maybe that vagueness was even useful, an infinitely pliable substance out of which to build a bridge between her old life and her new one…

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Race Is Real, But It’s Not Genetic

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2021-11-19 20:56Z by Steven

Race Is Real, But It’s Not Genetic


Alan Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology
Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts

For over 300 years, socially defined notions of “race” have shaped human lives around the globe—but the category has no biological foundation.

A friend of mine with Central American, Southern European, and West African ancestry is lactose intolerant. Drinking milk products upsets her stomach, and so she avoids them. About a decade ago, because of her low dairy intake, she feared that she might not be getting enough calcium, so she asked her doctor for a bone density test. He responded that she didn’t need one because “blacks do not get osteoporosis.”

My friend is not alone. The view that black people don’t need a bone density test is a longstanding and common myth. A 2006 study in North Carolina found that out of 531 African American and Euro-American women screened for bone mineral density, only 15 percent were African American women—despite the fact that African American women made up almost half of that clinical population. A health fair in Albany, New York, in 2000, turned into a ruckus when black women were refused free osteoporosis screening. The situation hasn’t changed much in more recent years.

Meanwhile, FRAX, a widely used calculator that estimates one’s risk of osteoporotic fractures, is based on bone density combined with age, sex, and, yes, “race.” Race, even though it is never defined or demarcated, is baked into the fracture risk algorithms.

Let’s break down the problem…

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Film Screening with Director Ines Johnson-Spain in Attendance: “Becoming Black”

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Videos on 2021-11-19 20:34Z by Steven

Film Screening with Director Ines Johnson-Spain in Attendance: “Becoming Black”

Black Germans

Sponsored by Waterloo Centre for German, German at University of Toronto, and Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Camden
November 17, 2021

SYNOPSIS: Becoming Black (dir. Ines Johnson-Spain, 2019, 91 min.):

In the 1960s, the East German Sigrid falls in love with Lucien from Togo, one of several African students studying at a trade school on the outskirts of East Berlin. She becomes pregnant, but is already married to Armin. Sigrid and Armin raise their daughter as their own, withholding from her knowledge of her African paternal heritage. That child grows up to become the filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain. In filmed encounters with her aging stepfather Armin and others from her youth, Johnson-Spain tracks the strategies of denial developed by her parents and the surrounding community. Her intimate but also critical exploration comprising both painful and confusing childhood memories and matter-of-fact accounts testifies to a culture of repression. When blended with movingly warm encounters with her Togolese family, Becoming Black becomes a thought-provoking reflection on identity, social norms and family ties.

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