War of Colors

By Emir Kumova | Drama
A Black woman with white skin struggles to fit in with society.

In many ways, Rue is a typical young woman. Smart, hard-working and attractive, she's a writer, she comes from a loving home and family, and she has a crush on her co-worker at her restaurant job.

But Rue also has albinism, which makes life harder for her sometimes. She's not quite accepted by the Black community: to some, she's not Black enough, she's too white or she's just a "freak." And the white community treats her as Black. People stare at her on the bus. Her co-worker thinks she looks weird. Even in an inclusive creative community, she feels excluded. With such obstacles, Rue must find her voice, as well as her sense of acceptance.

Written and directed by Emir Kumova, this short drama captures both the external and internal struggles of people who have albinism, a genetic disorder in which the skin produces less melanin than normal, leading to a variety of complications. It is very much a portrait of a modern young woman going about her ordinary, everyday life. But it's not as ordinary as she'd like, for the attitudes around her albinism complicate nearly all aspects of her life.

The heart of the film is actor Diandra Forrest's moving performance as Rue, who possesses a strong character arc, thanks to excellent, measured writing and direction. Captured with moody, elegant set of visuals, the storytelling takes Rue through a series of contexts, from her warmth and acceptance from her loving father to her work, where she has a tolerant boss and a co-worker she has a crush on.

We see her at a spoken word gathering for other Black poets and performers; we see her on a bus. Through it all, Forrest -- who got her start as the first woman with albinism signed to a major modeling agency -- portrays Rue as a typical young woman, just trying to get a foothold and establish a positive life that's full of friendships, romance and meaningful endeavor -- and full of vulnerability and heartbreak when it proves so difficult.

She's often reminded of how she doesn't fit in. And then there is her internalization of the prejudice that she faces, which only intensifies with each obstacle. She becomes more isolated and depressed, but when she receives encouragement from an unexpected source, she steps onto the stage and unleashes her story and her voice -- and in doing so, finds genuine empowerment and self-acceptance.

"War of Colors" is part of a storytelling tradition that helps us to imagine life in another person's shoes -- simple, and yet invaluable in helping us truly empathize with one another. One-in-20,000 people in the U.S. have albinism, and it's more common in many other places like Tanzania, where 1-in-1,000 people have it -- and are also killed and mutilated because of the mistaken belief that their body parts have magical properties that can heal diseases.

Rue doesn't face that horror, but she does face exclusion, isolation and a lack of recognition of her basic humanity, and we come away from the film with an understanding of the complexity of her issues, and how deeply they affect her. She is denied community and solidarity and is seen as not enough or less than fully human. But seeing her reclaim her voice and share her truth in the face of it all is inspiring and triumphant -- for those with albinism, and for anyone who ever felt excluded for something beyond their control.

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