Director D. Channsin Berry recently answered some questions via email about “Dark Girls,” which is now available on DVD. These answers were received by the Chico Movie Examiner on Oct. 3.
Berry and “Hoodlum” director Bill Duke teamed up for this documentary, which looks at racism from the angle of dark-skinned females. The film shows how it occurs within the African American race; how it occurs in the media; and how many successful women have been affected by it. Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis and many others are interviewed in the documentary.
Check out the interview below.
David Wangberg: What compelled you guys to create a documentary about this topic?
D. Channsin Berry: Growing up, I watched the continual hurt and disenfranchisement of so many wonderful darker skinned Black women and men over the years. Growing up a darker skinned male, I knew what was being said to my face, and I knew what was being said about them, in front of and behind their backs. I am always ready to champion taboos, or those things which are not openly discussed…those things that have been made a part of our cultural fabric. My passion is to make films which will spark dialogue toward change.
DW: Do you believe both men and women experience this particular type of racism, where they are based on darkness or lightness of skin tone?
DCB: I do believe that all people of color have this experience…especially in America. This speaks to issues of self esteem and worthiness. Men face it from such a different perspective…we are subjected to the same biases, but we find different ways not to internalize it. Women’s self worth in the western world has largely been based on appearance: weight, color or hue, eye shape, nose size…all of those things which make us individuals. But I also learned that all people are dark girls at some point in their lives. When I have gotten requests for this film from all over the world, including places like Poland, this issue actually goes beyond hue ism. Every single culture (men and women) battles this issue in some form!
DW: With social media being what it is (very anonymous; very impersonal), do you think racism/hatred has remained the same since the end of segregation, or has it gotten worse?
DCB: I think for those who have become prisoners of their own demons, the Internet has allowed them to become shadow figures. They find the boogie man in the dark places their minds dwell in. It’s like water finding its own level…they find what they are seeking. I am forever optimistic about the lessoning of racism and hatred in our world, however, those who use skin color as a tool of their own disenfranchisement are fewer in number, but hotter in spirit. They are zealots, and there are pockets of them in every corner of the world.
DW: What do you hope people will gain from this documentary?
DCB: I want people to see how insidious and life wasting this bias is. I have sons. I am more aware of being careful of my own actions, both spoken, and displayed around them (and if you have children, you know they are watching your every nano gesture and nuance). The little snippets of opinion you think they don’t key into, they do! I want them to know their value, and I want them to treat women as they would their mother, or grandmother, cousins, and aunts! I want this to become a non-issue for the world. There are too many other things we should be spending our energies on.
DW: What is your next project?
DCB: Right now I am wrapping up the production of “The Black Line”: A profile of the African-American Woman. Part 3” and “The Church House: Sexuality in the Black Church.”
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank D. Channsin Berry for taking the time to answer these questions.