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Dark Girls

Combats discrimination in which women with the darkest complexions are made to feel less beautiful or desirable than their light-skinned counterparts.

More self-esteem booster than sociological study, “Dark Girls” combats the negative effects of “colorism” within the black community — discrimination in which women with the darkest complexions are made to feel less beautiful or desirable than their light-skinned counterparts. The fact that such prejudice reps a largely black-on-black phenom demands education and therapy, both of which this disjointed docu-essay attempts to deliver. Mixing contradictory man-on-the-street interviews with soundbites from psychiatrists and academics, “Dark Girls” frames the problem but fails to engage in a compelling way. As such, theatrical exposure will be minimal, with classrooms and television serving as far likelier outlets.

For co-directors Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, who spent years collecting the testimony that appears onscreen, the goal is to serve up a dialogue starter, one that sends an unconditional “black is beautiful” message. In order to sway audiences, however, they need a hook: A central character would help (as in “America the Beautiful”), or perhaps a charismatic host (as in “Good Hair”). Instead, pic juggles too many talking heads, accompanied by generic, YouTube-grade B-roll. The kids in particular are heartbreaking and deserved more screentime than the celebs interviewed.

Dark Girls

  • Production: A Duke Media and Urban Winter Entertainment presentation of a DarkGirls production. Produced by Bill Duke, D. Channsin Berry. Executive producers, Duke, Berry. Co-producer, Bradinn French. Directed, written by Bill Duke, D. Channsin Berry.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Johnny Simmons, Carl Bartels, Mark Cohen, Lawrence Dennis, Colin Battiste; editors, Bradinn French, Steven Hall; music, Kurt Farquhar. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 15, 2011. Running time: 75 MIN.
  • With: With: Cheryl Grills, Tifase Webb, Soren Baker, Ronald Boutelle, Michael Colyar, Benson Cooke, Viola Davis, Tim Foley, Lynne Herod-DeVerges, Douglas Kearney, Daryl Rowe, Matthew Shinoda, Emily Yang.
  • Music By: