Becoming Black

A film by Ines Johnson-Spain.

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»In a coun­try whe­re any devia­ti­on from its norm was con­si­de­red an exis­ten­ti­al thre­at, the birth of a black child must have been a poli­ti­cal issue.«Ines Johnson-Spain

It’s the start of the 1960s in the GDR: Sigrid, from Leipzig, falls in love with Lucien, a stu­dent from Togo, and gets pregnant. But she’s mar­ried to Armin, and they alrea­dy have a son tog­e­ther. The cou­p­le let their dark-skin­ned daugh­ter belie­ve that her skin colour is a coin­ci­dence and not signi­fi­cant, until she dis­co­vers the truth by chan­ce as a teen­ager. Decades later, long after she has met her bio­lo­gi­cal father’s fami­ly in Togo, she recon­structs her fami­ly histo­ry in a film as both prot­ago­nist and aut­hor. In emo­tio­nal and open con­ver­sa­ti­ons with her ste­pf­a­ther Armin, the atmo­s­phe­re of silence and sup­pres­si­on is very much in evi­dence. It slow­ly beco­mes clear how the social milieu has to be struc­tu­red in order to make such a major deni­al of facts possible.Here too, pri­va­te mat­ters are poli­ti­cal. In an inti­ma­te explo­ra­ti­on of her own iden­ti­ty, Ines Johnson-Spain traces the taboo topic oversha­dowing her child­hood and in doing so also expo­ses an under­ly­ing racism resi­ding in the GDR. In the con­text of the tou­ch­ing encoun­ter with her Togolese fami­ly whom she dis­co­ve­r­ed so late in her life, the film beco­mes a reflec­tion on iden­ti­ty, fami­ly con­cepts and social norms. From the 1960s in East Berlin to the pre­sent day, this inti­ma­te, moving self-por­trait reve­als a wise and hither­to unwrit­ten German story.

 

 
Credits:

DE 2019, 91 Min.,
Buch & Regie: Ines Johnson-Spain
Kamera: Sebastian Winkels, Anne Misselwitz
Schnitt: Yana Höhnerbach

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