Opening 3 Oct 2019
Writing credits: Guy Nattiv
Principal actors: Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, Daniel Henshall, Bill Camp, Louisa Krause
The colors and designs of hate cover Byron Widner’s (Jamie Bell) face and body, language, temperament, and actions; Skin is loosely based on Widner’s life. Israeli-born writer-director Guy Nattiv has crafted a no-holes-barred film about one racist skinheads' and white supremacists' stronghold’s credo and codes of behavior. Countless scenes feel heartbreakingly real: the anger, bullying, hate and hurt concealed by many guises, even though Nattiv circumvents fidelity to veracity.
Fred “Hammer” Krager (Bill Camp) and “Ma” Shareen’s (Vera Farmiga) tight strictures maintain equilibrium within their unruly family. Acknowledgment of “Babs” position in the hierarchy is his dog; Boss inadvertently becomes the catalyst of cracks to appear in Byron’s armor. Attending a Nordic Fest, Bryon abreacts to the Vikings’ obnoxiousness by beating Slayer (Daniel Henshall) almost senseless. On the other hand, Bryon meets and is drawn to little Iggy (Colbi Gannett), mom Julie (Danielle Macdonald) and older sisters (Zoe Colletti, Kylie Rogers). Julie exudes kindliness, and the family’s civility viscerally affects Bryon, prompting his cautious pursuit. In parallel action, anti-racist activist reformist Daryle Jenkins (Mike Colter) of the Southern Poverty Law Center has encounters with the aggressive skinheads, and is well acquainted with “Babs.” Eventually, Bryon reaches out to Daryle. Time though does not stand still, or wait, for anyone.
Galvanizing the film is Bell’s mesmeric performance, and the great cast parlays that momentum. Arnaud Potier’s cinematography, Dan Romer’s music, and Lee Percy and Michael Taylor’s editing are stellar; noteworthy is Stephen Bettles and makeup department’s work, especially for their tattoos and hair artistry. Nattiv’s first American short film Skin, won an Oscar® in 2018; this feature film, also titled Skin and released in 2018 has no correlation to the short. Alongside end credits, there are facts and photographs regarding Widner and Jenkins.
Radical purveyors of violence exist at every level. While Skin highlights the result of predators’ indoctrinating damaged poor kids, the chilling 2018 documentary Kleinen Germanen (Little Germans) spotlights close relatives’ pernicious influence on children through targeted propaganda. Both films are timely; both should be seen. They are abhorrent reminders that power abuse, and acquiescence to passivity is dangerous. After all, colors and designs are transposable. (Marinell Haegelin)