News and updates about SKIN
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Giffoni Film Festival LogoGiffoni is a unique festival on the Amalfi coast in Italy, created for and judged by children from around the world.  Last Saturday 25th July, SKIN won two Special Awards at the festival: Amnesty International’s Humanitarian Film Award and the CIAL Environmental Jury Award.

A Juror from Amnesty International Italy made the following statement: “SKIN deals with the painful and burning issue of apartheid in a very original way and highlights discrimination against women – deprived of possibilities and self-determination, victims of atrocious abuse and suffering. The film demonstrates how deep social divisions can be caused by passively accepting an imposed cultural model. It also shows how mutual mistrust and fear can result in discrimination, racism, inequality and violence. Lastly, it celebrates the brave choice of a woman willing to defend her own dignity, and is an inspiration for those who believe that human rights must be respected regardless of a person’s origins, ethnic group, gender or social status.”

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When I started planning the UK premiere with the team from our chosen charity, FilmAid (, I confessed to one of the organisers that I had two major fears: the first was that no one would turn up. The second was that we would be overrun and many would be denied entry. By what seemed like a miracle on that sweltering July evening, the house was packed - and everyone got a seat.

What's more, pretty much everyone I'd hoped might be there actually came and walked the red carpet: Sophie Okonedo, Alice Krige and Sandra Laing; (sadly, Sam Neill was in New Zealand and couldn't get away, but he sent his best wishes - and beautiful daughter - instead); Alan Rickman, Susannah York, Miriam Margolyes, Graham Norton, Greta Scacchi, Maryam D'Abo, Hugh Hudson, Moira Stuart, Edward and Fred Fox, Baroness Lola Young, Dame Emma Kirkby, Stephen Isserlis, Christopher Hogwood - and several other long-time supporters of the project, many of whom had witnessed the long struggle to bring this story to the screen.

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Catherine Wyler, daughter of legendary director William Wyler, attended the world premiere of SKIN in Toronto last year. She told me then about a film festival she runs in Rochester (across Lake Ontario), suggesting we might show the film there. I had no idea where we would be with regard to distribution by then - but Catherine kept tabs on the film and, as it was making the rounds of regional festivals, requested it.

There was an additional link - Judy Stone, author of Sandra Laing's biography, "When She Was White", is a friend of Cathy Wyler, and was willing to do a Q&A after the screening. Here's what she wrote about the experience:

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Palm Beach

This is a getting to be a very luxurious problem. Where to put the next accolades on the poster? :-)

SKIN just won the Jury Award for Best Film at the Palm Beach Film Festival (admittedly shared with another film, Machan, directed by Uberto Pasolini).

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Here is a report from Sibongile Makhaya, a bi-racial South African woman who worked with me on the SKIN script development workshops we conducted with fifteen actors in Johannesburg in 2004. She now lives in Washington DC and attended last week's packed screenings at Filmfest DC. I asked her to do the Q&A, as I was unable to attend. There seems to have been quite a large South African contingent at the screening!

Mr. Tony Gittens, Director of FilmFest DC, and I watched and waited patiently as commuters and other folks from DC arrived in groups; many ran up the escalators and headed for theatre 11, right up to the last minute.  It had been a packed house on Friday, when I first saw SKIN. Tonight it outsold all other movies.

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AFI DallasBeen rather slow about updating the blog lately. Could all this international travel be getting to me? Just ten days after Hong Kong, I was on another long-haul flight - this time from London to Dallas (my carbon footprint is becoming elephantine this year - but I’d like to think it’s in a good cause... isn’t that what Al Gore said when promoting ‘An Inconvenient Truth’?). Nevertheless, I do believe this trip will prove pivotal in helping SKIN reach a wider public.

Texas is known as the Lone Star State, and Dallas could well be our Lucky Star. Not only did SKIN win the Audience Award (in competition with 177 other films) but the film’s reception  by the greater community was overwhelming. We are in the process of raising Prints and Advertising funds for our US release and, following SKIN’s second screening in Dallas, I had quite a few offers of financial assistance from the city’s Great and Good.

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A long-haul flight seems as good a place as any to update one’s blog. So here I am, thousands of feet in the air between Hong Kong and London, having just screened SKIN at the Agnes b. Cinema in the Arts Centre and given a series of talks to a wide range of students as part of the AFI 20/20 programme (

The eminent theatre director, Tim Albery, whom I assisted early in my (aborted) opera career, apparently once said to a mutual acquaintance, ‘Let’s face it, Caroline. We’ll never be as international as Tony Fabian.’ His words are often quoted as a family joke – but the marvelous Mr. Albery, a Brit living in Canada, has since worked at every major opera house on the planet; I reckon he could give me a run for my international money.

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Santa Barbara Film Festival AwardYou’d think getting hold of this piece of wood and metal would be easy as pie. But no. It proved as complicated and long-winded as discovering the secret of Pi. In the two weeks post-Festival and Tributes, my composer, sales agent and I made several attempts to contact the Marie Celeste offices of the Santa Barbara Film Festival - receiving little or no response. Finally and mysteriously, the object in question was sent - not to London as requested - but to the offices of The Little Film Company in Los Angeles. Fortunately for me, Helene Muddiman was flying to London the following week, and offered to bring it over. In a jet-lagged fug, she got confused about our meeting point. So we found ourselves on a busy corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, exchanging packages as though concluding an illicit drug deal. And here it is - in all its gloriously garish splendour. May it spawn many more...
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As stated previously, expect nothing but the unexpected. At the PAFF’s opening night, I was told SKIN had been whipped out of competition when it was chosen as the Centerpiece Gala, because it would give the film an ‘unfair advantage over the other films‘. But we would still be eligible for the Audience Award. This seemed rather bizarre - why would the jury lose all objectivity, while the audience could be trusted not to be influenced by a spotlight on SKIN? To my knowledge, this logic does not apply to any other festival, such as Berlin, Cannes, Venice or Toronto. But never mind. My team and I anxiously awaited the results of the Awards Brunch last Monday, hoping we might have nabbed the Audience Award, since the response to the film was so strong. Having heard no news, even after the Brunch was over, I assumed the worst... I then spoke to our logistics manager, the trusty John Johnston, who was looking at PAFF’s website. “It says here: ‘The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) announced today the winners of its annual film competition. A favorite among PAFF jurors and audiences was the South Africa/UK film "Skin" starring Sophie Okonedo.’

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Anthony Fabian and actress Alfre Woodard attend the SKIN Centerpiece Gala at the PAFF, Culver City, Wednesday 12th Feburary 2009It seems nothing ever happens quite as you expect in this business - the lesson being, expect nothing and anything might happen. Anticipation is inevitable - in my case, irrepressible. The Centerpiece Gala at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Culver City was a much anticipated event in the SKIN calendar - an opportunity to showcase the film in the filmmaking capital. It’s true, we’d screened last November at AFI Fest’s Arclight Theater in the heart of Hollywood. But this was special: a whole evening at the midpoint of an established festival, dedicated to SKIN.

A few weeks prior to the PAFF Gala, I was contacted by a publicist, Stacy Hess, who’d been lent a copy of the film by a friend and was passionate about working on it. I liked Stacy immediately; she had a fiercely positive energy, a sense of fun and a fearlessness about her. During our first encounter in a cafe at the Sundance festival, I pointed out an important US distributor who was sitting just behind us. Without hesitation, Stacy got up as Mr. Distributor was leaving, introduced herself as my publicist and told him about SKIN and why he must see it. She extracted a card from him and told him she’d be in touch. I knew she meant business.


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