“Passing” is a controversial concept in Black American Culture. We all know someone who is light enough, or has fair enough features to “pass” as white. Often times, these fair skinned family members are complete anomalies in their families. Take Quincy Jones’ daughters for example. Kidada Jones, while she is lighter in skin tone is visibly a black woman. Her younger sister however, Rasheeda, is a more public figure in today’s entertainment world and most people don’t know she’s black.
Now the conflict surrounding the choice that those who can “pass” for white have to make, has made it’s way to the independent movie circuit. Across the Tracks is a film about two sisters growing up in Georgia in the 1960’s in the midst of segregation. When the school systems become integrated, the youngest sister who is fair skinned, decides to pass for white so that she can go to the school on the other side of the tracks. This decision causes a deep rift between the siblings which lasts all the way into their adult lives.
The trailer is riveting, with stellar performances by the two young actresses that tackle issues like colorism, institutionalized racism, and black identity in the south with critically acclaimed performances. The film, which can be seen here for $2, has received awards at more than 25 different international film festivals including the the Hip Hop Film Festival in Harlem, the international Chelsea Film Festival, and Africa Movie Academy Awards. The actresses who play the sisters as adults were recognized for their performances at the Chelsea Film Festival as well.
The director, Mike Cooke, said “At the time of filming in 2014, we wanted to show the complex nuances of race and identity in the eyes of a young black girl, growing up in the late 60s. It was always meant to be presented in a way that left the viewer asking their own questions. What would you do if you were in the same scenario as Ella? The years have progressed, our politics in turmoil, I think our message has really stayed the course. I’d like to present a mirror to the viewer and give them some abstract thinking exercises.”