Francesca Andre’s Short Film Charcoal Explores Generational Effects of Colorism

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You can’t go very far as a woman of color without encountering the oppressive nature of colorism. While it certainly affects men’s lives as well, the way it’s tied to beauty standards for women (and the sexism involved in women being taught their only value lies in physical beauty) makes the way in which they interact with it distinct. Filmmaker Francesca Andre explores this in a unique way in her short film, Charcoal.

According to Shadow and Act, Charcoal tells “the story of two Black women deeply wounded by the perils of colorism within the Black community. It’s a film that shows how self-hatred is taught.” The trailer above is heartbreaking as we see girls and women of different ages suffering needlessly for the “crime” of having been born with dark skin.

We see one young girl being made fun of by other black girls. We see one young woman applying a lighter foundation on her skin and putting a straight-hair wig on over her shorter, natural hair. We see women applying lemon juice and other creams to their skin, hoping to do whatever they can to lighten their skin. Because the world insists that the lighter you are, the more valuable and beautiful you are.

Colorism is a problem that exists not only within individual communities, but also between the different communities that make up the POC label. As a Latina, I know that my brown skin gives me less privilege than, say, my white Latina sisters. I’m also aware that I have more privilege than my Afr0-Latina sisters in many instances. And I know that my skin color offers me the same varied privilege/lack of privilege outside my own community when considered alongside non-Latina black women, or Asian women.

I’m so glad that films like this, or like the awesome documentary Dark Girls exist. Racism is so much more complicated and nuanced than tends to get talked about in mainstream discourse on the subject. That’s why it’s important that films like this continue the conversation beyond the mainstream.

(image: screencap)

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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.