‘Passing’ keeps its writing simple, asking viewers to lean in for greater understanding

Posted in Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2022-01-21 02:00Z by Steven

‘Passing’ keeps its writing simple, asking viewers to lean in for greater understanding

The Los Angeles Times
2022-01-18

Rebecca Hall

Adapting Nella Larsen’s slim novella took writer-director Rebecca Hall 13 years. “Ultimately, I did my best to build my script and my film, not so much out of language as out of small moments of behavior,” she says. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

My adaptation of Nella Larsen’s “Passing” had a slow birth, even by the often glacial standards of script development. When I started writing, I was an actress in my 20s with vague but fervent aspirations to one day direct. I wrote the first draft in 10 days, immediately after first reading the novel, in something of a fugue state. I was fascinated but also mystified by that fascination, and my first draft was crude and impractical. I didn’t think for a second that I would ever have the means or the courage to turn it into a film.

In retrospect, I probably could never have written it otherwise. Over the years, I tinkered, adjusting it radically and then minutely and then radically again until it became something of a piece of me — not so much a project or a process as a thing that I have lived in dialogue with for the better part of my adult life.

The main challenge of the adaptation revolved around the character of Irene. Contemporary reviewers often missed both Irene’s centrality and her fundamental unreliability. Clare, the object of Irene’s obsession, was frequently taken to be the main character, rather than one half of the extraordinary — and extraordinarily complicated — relationship that drives the action…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Passing for Racial Democracy

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-01-19 03:00Z by Steven

Passing for Racial Democracy

The Baffler
2021-12-06

Stephanie Reist

Detail from A Redenção de Cam (Redemption of Ham), Modesto Brocos, 1895. | Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

The complexities of the color line in the U.S. and Brazil

A CENTRAL POINT OF TENSION between Irene Redfield (played by Tessa Thompson) and her husband Dr. Brian Redfield (André Holland) in Rebecca Hall’s Passing, based on the Nella Larsen novel of the same name, is whether their family should remain in the United States. While Irene can pass for white out of convenience, the same is not true of her darker sons and her husband, who routinely informs his children about lynchings and white violence. Irene disapproves of this talk, despite her work for the Negro Welfare League. In one pivotal scene, she drives her tired husband home after a long day of visiting patients, and the couple discuss going to South America, specifically mentioning Brazil. The issue returns when the couple fights over the consuming role that Clare (Ruth Negga)—who has chosen to pass as white to the point of marrying a bigoted white husband and having a daughter with him—exerts in their lives and marriage.

In Larsen’s novel, Brian’s longing for Brazil, which becomes conflated with what Irene perceives as his desire for the effervescent, delightfully dangerous Clare, is even more pronounced: Brazil is the one that got away, Brian’s lost hope for a society where he and other black members of the talented tenth could be judged by their merits, not lynched because they failed to stay in their place. Irene even implicitly sanctions an affair between her husband and Clare to assuage her guilt for denying her family the chance to be truly “happy, or free, or safe”—a state she laments as impossible when speaking to Clare about her choice not to pass…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rebecca Hall’s Brief But Spectacular take on ‘Passing’ and racial identity

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, United States, Videos on 2022-01-13 14:53Z by Steven

Rebecca Hall’s Brief But Spectacular take on ‘Passing’ and racial identity

PBS Newshour
2022-01-12

Melissa Williams

Rebecca Hall has been on-screen since age 10, but in her new film “Passing” she steps into the director role for the first time. It is based on a novel that was written in 1929 by Nella Lawson Larsen at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Hall shares her Brief But Spectacular take on “Passing” and on her own racial identity as part of our arts and culture series, CANVAS.

Read the full transcript here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Can You Be “White Passing” Even if You Aren’t Trying?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2022-01-12 15:59Z by Steven

Can You Be “White Passing” Even if You Aren’t Trying?

Mother Jones
January-February 2022 Issue

Andrea Guzmán, Ben Bagdikian Editorial Fellow


Lisa Taniguchi

The phrase has become popular on social media. But there’s a lot left out of the conversation.

When pop star Olivia Rodrigo released her album Sour in May 2021, listeners took to TikTok to debate whether she was “white passing.” The question was not really about how Rodrigo perceives or publicly identifies herself. She is of both Filipino and white ancestry. Rather, it was about whether others see her as white. The Rodrigo discourse soon enflamed more general discussion about who deems one “white passing.” As one Iranian-born TikToker explained, she “did not grow up being white” when she came of age in post-9/11 America, but after others began to associate her appearance with whiteness—partially because of the rise of the Kardashians—she now recognizes the privilege of being “white passing.”

The conversation differed from how “passing” has traditionally been used in the United States. In the Jim Crow era—when “one drop” of Black ancestry subjected a person to segregation—“passing” was a deception to assume the privileges of whiteness. From 1880 to 1940, experts suspect about 20 percent of Black men passed for white at some point. It was commonly an attempt to “access things that wouldn’t have been available to them otherwise,” says Nikki Khanna, a sociology professor at the University of Vermont. But it was also a certain betrayal—leaving behind collective uplift for personal gain…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Netflix’s Passing Made Me Rethink How I Carry My Racial Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2022-01-04 18:07Z by Steven

Netflix’s Passing Made Me Rethink How I Carry My Racial Ambiguity

Popsugar
2021-12-13

Adele Stewart

As a white-passing biracial woman, I really resonated with Rebecca Hall’s film adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing. The story centers on two biracial Black women, Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), who are light-skinned enough to pass as white in 1920s New York. When Irene bumps into her old friend Clare, she almost doesn’t recognize her. Unlike Irene — who is living her life openly as a Black woman despite being able to pass for white if she wanted to — Clare has accentuated her already-light features with blond hair to help her pass as white in everyday society. Taking her deception even further, she’s married a wealthy white man (Alexander Skarsgard), who not only doesn’t know she’s Black but also holds an extreme, violent hatred toward Black people.

In some ways, I identify with Clare, particularly when it comes to how easy it is for me to blend in and reap the benefits of white privilege without facing the inequities of being Black in the US. While it was never intentional like it was with Clare, I have always gone through the world passing as white and seeing things through a “white” lens because that’s simply what most people assume I am. It wasn’t until my late teenage years that I started to see how my Black family, friends, or boyfriends were treated differently than I was. I seemed to have been floating through life unknowingly reaping the benefits of my racial ambiguity for a very long time. Often, it feels like I have a secret Black identity that doesn’t quite know where she fits and when (or if) she should reveal herself. Truth is, I want to belong everywhere — with my white family and friends, but also with my Black family and friends — so I tend to blend in and code-switch depending on who I’m with. As a result, I never feel like I entirely belong in either community…

Read then entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Thinking in Colour: A BBC Radio Collection of Documentaries on Race, Society and Black History

Posted in Audio, Barack Obama, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Justice, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-12-16 17:53Z by Steven

Thinking in Colour: A BBC Radio Collection of Documentaries on Race, Society and Black History

BBC Digital Audio
2021-02-12
00:57:00
ISBN: 9781529143560

Gary Younge, Professor of Sociology
University of Manchester

Gary Younge Gary Younge (Read by) Robin Miles (Read by) Amaka Okafor (Read by) Full Cast (Read by) Ricky Fearon (Read by)

Gary Younge explores race, society and Black history in these five fascinating documentaries

Author, broadcaster and sociology professor Gary Younge has won several awards for his books and journalism covering topics such as the civil rights movement, inequality and immigration. In this documentary collection, the former Guardian US correspondent turns his attention to current American political and social issues, including populist conservatism, and African-American identity.

In Thinking in Colour, he examines racial ‘passing’: light-skinned African-Americans who decided to live their lives as white people. Looking at the topic through the prism of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella Passing, Gary hears three astonishing personal stories, and probes the distinction between race and colour.

Recorded shortly after the historic 2008 election, The Documentary: Opposing Obama follows Gary as he travels through Arkansas and Kentucky, talking to people who see Barack Obama’s presidency as nothing but bad news, and hearing their hopes and fears for the future.

In The Wales Window of Alabama, Gary recounts how the people of Wales helped rebuild an Alabama church, where bombers killed four girls in 1963. Hearing of the atrocity, sculptor John Petts rallied his local community to raise money, and subsequently created a new stained glass window that has become a focus for worship and a symbol of hope.

In Ebony: Black on White on Black, we hear the history of Ebony, the magazine that has charted and redefined African-American life since its launch in 1945. But what is its place in the world today, and does it still speak to contemporary African-Americans?

And in Analysis: Tea Party Politics, Gary assesses the Tea Party movement, a US right-wing protest group that objects to big government and high taxes. He finds out what sparked this grass-roots insurgency, who its supporters are, and analyses its impact.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As is by now clear, I have my misgivings about Hall’s recent film, but, above all, I’m very glad that she made it. If nothing else, it is a sign of Larsen’s growing stature, a growth evident to any scholar who has been watching the ballooning scholarly interest in her work in the last decade.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-12-06 23:50Z by Steven

To be sure, there are other dimensions of this adaptation that deserve discussion—for example, the downplaying of Clare’s abusive childhood, which renders her passing a little more mercenary than it is in the novel—but I’ve already gone on too long. As is by now clear, I have my misgivings about [Rebecca] Hall’s recent film, but, above all, I’m very glad that she made it. If nothing else, it is a sign of [Nella] Larsen’s growing stature, a growth evident to any scholar who has been watching the ballooning scholarly interest in her work in the last decade. Having her novel adapted for the big screen constitutes a new stage in this evolution, for it makes her only the second novelist of the Harlem Renaissance to have her work adapted for film in a major way (Zora Neale Hurston was first, with Darnell Martin’s 2005 adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God).

Rafael Walker, “Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen,” Modernism/modernity, Volume 6, Cycle 2 (11/10/2021). https://modernismmodernity.org/forums/posts/walker-passing-film-hall-adaptation-larsen.

Tags: , , , , ,

Racial ‘passing’ is still a reality. Here’s why I embraced my complex identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-12-06 20:39Z by Steven

Racial ‘passing’ is still a reality. Here’s why I embraced my complex identity

The Boston Globe Magazine
2021-11-30

Steve Majors

Ruth Negga (left) and Tessa Thompson in “Passing,” the new film based on the Nella Larsen novel. NETFLIX ©2021/NETFLIX

For years, I passed as white. Only later did I realize the advantages I was getting made me complicit in a system that oppressed others.

I peered around the movie theater as soon as we sat down. Slowly, I began to pick out individuals who looked like my daughter and me — light complexioned Black and mixed-race people. They too, I reckoned, had come to see a movie that reflected our shared reality.

Passing, which recently moved from the big screen to Netflix and is based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, tells the story of two light-skinned Black women in 1920s New York who, upon reconnecting, each grapple with the other’s relationship with race. One flouts societal and racial boundaries by “passing” as white. The other quietly wrestles with the limits imposed on her as a married Black woman.

The origins of passing stretch back to our country’s founding. For some Black people, crossing the color line meant a chance to improve their social status, economic opportunity, and marital prospects. Some scholars claim passing is no longer a phenomenon because of greater economic opportunity and stronger legal protections for Black Americans. But passing has never gone away. For many, it is a reality — but one that can be transformed into a powerful way to embrace our true identities.

For much of my life, I’ve passed as white. My “high yella” skin, as my grandmother called it, along with gray-green eyes and straight hair, hid the fact that I am mixed race. So did my family. In 1967, a year after I was born, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Still, mixed-race relationships remained socially unacceptable in some parts of the country. For me, growing up in a small town in western New York, my very existence as a mixed-race person was a personal affront to some…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-03 15:18Z by Steven

Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Modernism/modernity
Volume 6, Cycle 2 (2021-11-10)

Rafael Walker, Assistant Professor of English
Baruch College, City University of New York

Fig. 1. Promotional poster for Rebecca Hall’s Passing (2021). Image via IMDB.

Director Rebecca Hall’s recent adaptation of Nella Larsen’s exquisite second novel, Passing (1929), is visually stunning. I had the pleasure of seeing the film on the big screen, during its limited theatrical run and before its Netflix release. It was the ideal atmosphere for absorbing this cinematic rendering of Larsen’s eerie, anxiety-ridden plot: ensconced with a sparse audience (my companion and I comprising two of the four patrons for the 5:10pm showing) in a small independent theater in Manhattan, just a few miles from where the story is set, and with Halloween everywhere looming on this late-October evening.1

These qualities of the novel were only enhanced by Hall’s decision to film it in black and white, a daring choice that she, a first-time filmmaker, had to fight for, as Alexandra Kleeman of the New York Times reports. On the one hand, this artistic decision conjures all the nervous palpitations that Hitchcock made synonymous with black-and-white mise-en-scène, maintaining the unshakable uneasiness one experiences while reading Larsen’s novel. On the other, it hurls the either-or terms of Jim Crow racial binarism into conflict with a predominating grayscale—an all-pervading sign of the fictionality of the dichotomizations structuring American culture. Nothing could be more in the spirit of Nella Larsen’s novel. I suspect, however, that Hall’s departures from the source text will attract the attention of modernists far more than her convergences…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Passing’ filmmaker Rebecca Hall shares the personal story behind her movie

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2021-12-03 02:32Z by Steven

‘Passing’ filmmaker Rebecca Hall shares the personal story behind her movie

Fresh Air
National Public Radio
2021-11-30

Terri Gross, Host

Rebecca Hall (right) works on the set of Passing with actors Ruth Negga (left) and Tessa Thompson.
Netflix

Actor/filmmaker Rebecca Hall had what she describes as a “real gasp” moment when she first read Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing.

The book centers on two light-skinned African American women who run into each other after not having seen each other for many years. One of the women is an active member of Harlem’s Black community. The other is married to a white man and is passing as white.

Reading the story of these fictional women, Hall realized that her maternal grandfather had also passed as white.

“Suddenly, aspects of my family life that were tinged with so much mystery and obfuscation, there was a reason for that,” Hall says.

Hall’s mother, acclaimed opera singer Maria Ewing, also passed as white, though not necessarily by her own volition. Instead, Hall says, Ewing tended to “be whatever people chose to see” — which sometimes meant being described as “exotic” by members of the opera community.

Hall was so moved by Larsen’s novel that she drafted a script for a film adaptation — and then she put it away until she felt ready to do something with it. Now, 13 years later, her adaptation of Passing is available on Netflix

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,