Mon | Oct 19, 2020

The pathology of racism

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2020 | 12:00 AM

Director Guy Nattiv paints a tenebrous world marked by hatred. Still, he leaves the door of redemption ajar. With a mere 18 minutes to deliver a message steeped in symbolical hyperbole, Nattiv leaves little to the imagination.

The opening scene of gun-toting, beer-­guzzling, tattooed dissidents spewing ­expletives at the world is the perfect McGuffin for a provocative drama soaked in racial ­brinkmanship. Nattiv’s Skin is as mind-­bending and provocative as it gets. It conjures questions on free will and determinism, and moves us to contemplate the possibility of a life fated by tribalism?

Nattiv deftly uses imagery, sound and colour to set the tone for unbridled mayhem, but not before presenting the fatherly affection that Fred ‘Hammer’ Krager, a white supremacist, shares with his son Troy.

Interestingly, Troy’s fascination with snakes is portentous. His intrepid handling and detailed understanding of the ­slithering ­creature foreshadows his impressive ­marksmanship in front of his father’s band of Neo-Nazis friends, who also hone their militaristic craft.

Cupped from the real-life story of erstwhile Neo-Nazi Bryon Weidner, Skin, a stand-alone spin-off, exhaustively drills to the core of hatred while searching for answers. Set in rural America, in parts that still bleed from the ­country’s checkered past, the drama unfolds after an innocuously playful encounter between Krager’s son and a black man in a supermarket.

The encounter never misses the jaundiced eye of the boy’s white supremacist father. Words are exchanged and a phone call is made to fellow ‘supremacists.’ The unsuspecting black man exits the store, only to be blindsided, mercilessly pummeled and left for dead as his terrified wife and son look on helplessly in their locked vehicle.

Poetic justice

But the protagonist – the arch villain, gets his comeuppance. In a case of poetic justice, his son looks on as his father is abducted and whisked away by menacing-looking black men. A heart-stopping, staggering twist follows.

Surely, Krager is now at the receiving end but hardly in a retributive, vengeful manner one might have predicted. Indeed, what transpires is symbolically instructive and a glimpse into the human potential for meting out painful justice without spite.

Skin careens to an unexpected ending that leaves us aghast.

Clearly, Nativv’s work signals a disturbing racial zeitgeist, a toxicity of hate that is infecting countries from South America to Europe and the Far East. As reason and intolerance gasp for relevance, humanity bleeds. It is against this backdrop that Skin must be gauged.

Throughout, Nativv’s work nudges our conscience.

Skin does not render a solution for racism. No one movie or director can; but Nativv’s radical genius burrows deep into the human condition as his granular insights into socialisation prove paramount to understanding, and possibly stemming, the cancer of hate.

Arguably, Nativv’s message is articulated through his young actors; mere boys, both scarred, one almost irreparably – both witnesses to the vile excesses of racism. Maybe, they are Nativv’s representations of innocence’s last hope. Maybe, the violence witnessed will indelibly stir their humanity and that of generations to follow.

Link to movie:

SKIN 2019 Guy Nattiv

Director: Guy Nattiv

Screenplay: Guy Nattiv and Sharon Maymon

Story: Sharon Maymon

Ratings: Essential


Feedback: or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby