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Colour Me Impressed!

Colour Me
Atlantic Film Festival
September 21, 2011

Motivational speaker Anthony McLean explains to a Brampton, Ontario secondary school the concept of “brand new racists”. He describes that they love Black people, but if someone is not “gangsta” or “ghetto” or is educated, they regard that person as not really being Black. This comes from a scene in Sherien Barsoum’s first feature documentary Colour Me.

Two years ago, Barsoum was inspired by McLean’s mentorship program that asked youth what it means to be Black. As their conversations gave birth to her film, the story focused not only on the six teens, but also evolved into McLean delving into his own identity and how it related to him being half White and half Black.

Barsoum’s talent as a documentarian particularly shines through in a scene where McLean genuinely struggles to explain who he is, how he considers himself Black despite his Swedish heritage and how he acts differently with his Black versus White friends. The film’s honest snippets, such as this, blend glimpses of humour with deep, internal confusion.

Colour Me’s cinematography is of a higher aesthetic than the visuals normally associated with documentaries. The editing process was completed brilliantly to produce alternating sequences between profiles of each of the six teens, beautiful interactions, McLean’s school talks and his own personal background.

Barsoum and McLean are planning on taking the film on tour to high schools across the country. At the Oxford Theatre, the packed audience of mostly teens were clearly impacted by the documentary as shown by the number of questions they asked the director/producer/writer and film subject. One high schooler stood up and asked, “How many times have you doubted yourself?”

The resounding question Colour Me encourages each of us to ask is “Who am I?” ~ Michelle Brunet

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