“Why are we bringing our dirty laundry out in public? Because it’s stinking up the house!” These are the words of Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, co-directors and co-producers of Dark Girls, a new documentary which explores the deeply rooted bias and low self-esteem that, according to the film, dark skinned women of all ages experience. The poignant, raw, no holds barred interviews featured in the film open a dialogue on this shameful phenomenon.
Duke, who is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Tribute from the Director’s Guild of America, has helmed films such as A Rage in Harlem and Deep Cover, and acted in everything from American Gigolo to X-Men: The Last Stand, opened up to The Grio about his latest film.
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR ‘DARK GIRLS’ HERE:
theGrio: This is a thoughtful and powerful, and surely controversial documentary. What inspired you to make it, and why at this particular point in time?
Bill Duke: It came out of an idea I had based upon my childhood, what I’d gone through and seen, and what I’d seen people that I loved go through, like my sister, my niece, and other children in my family, and in my life, and I wanted to really give a voice to the voiceless. I brought the idea to Channsin Berry, my co-executive producer and director. We’d tried to get some investment dollars and we couldn’t find them, so we invested our own money — which is not painless. And why now? Colorism is unfortunately still an issue today. Dark skin is considered less than light skin in the in the minds of many in our community and in the media. We thought that finally it should be addressed, to give a voice to the voiceless.
What you two most painfully brought to light, in my mind, was the ignorance of our younger generation. The 5-year-old who identifies the darkest doll as stupid and ugly, and the young man who says he wouldn’t date a woman with dark skin because, he says ‘they look funny beside me.’ What’s going on here?
Isn’t it amazing though? There’s a rapper, I’ve forgotten his name, he just did a video recently and on the call sheet for auditions, he literally stated ‘no dark skinned women need apply.’ Isn’t that something?
It’s frightening. Why do you think that this is still happening?
Well, I think that there are a lot of reasons. I think from a quantum physics point of view, we are still in shock. It’s PTSD syndrome, in terms of slavery, and all the things we went through. I also think that media commits the sin of omission and co-mission. Co-mission is when I actually say ‘you’re a fool,’ you know, you’ve got your pants below your butt crack, and you’re disrespecting our women.
Or, I don’t know if you saw it recently, but the situation with the new Michael Jordan shoe, where we trampled each other for a $180 pair of sneakers. One of the kids came out and licked the shoe. Did you see that? He licked the shoe, tasted it, and said ‘I’ve arrived!’ Ok, that’s the sin of co-mission. If you look at YouTube, there’s a 29-year-old black man with 21 children from 11 different women. That’s on YouTube, going around the world. What kind of message is that?
The sin of omission is whenever there is anything holistic, heroic, or positive, we’re simply not there. So a child who is watching that looks at TV, at films, or at magazine, and if there is something beautiful and she’s not there, then her assumption is that she is not involved in anything that is beautiful, or confirming in anyway, or positive
Now we have a black man as the leader of the free world, and an intelligent, beautiful, and dark skinned first lady. This is mentioned as point of pride in your film. I’ve got to believe that this will help black women all over the world feel more beautiful and empowered. What do you think?
Well, our hope is that this film will create dialogue. A lot people in our community will say (laughs), “Why are you bringing our dirty laundry into the public eye?” My answer is because it’s stinking up the house! You know? And the thing is, if you don’t air it out, people will keep it in all of their lives. They never talk about it; they never discuss it, so there can’t be healing until there is dialogue. Out hope is that, yes, there is some healing factor in this, that people start talking about it, whether they agree with the film or not, at least it creates conversation, and I think that’s healing.