Drama based on the true story of Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo), a black woman who - due to a rare genetic irregularity - was born to white Afrikaner parents in 1950s South Africa.
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Come on, now.
Let's do it.
Hugh Johnston, World Network News. Could we ask some questions?
Sandra! Sandra! >
Can I get your autograph?
-I've got a secret.
-Is it a good secret?
I've packed Melinda for you.
Are you ready, my angel?
make this journey safe.
We put our beautiful children, Leon and Sandra, in your care and know that you will bless them.
There once was a girl who lived in a shop
Who'd only eat her mismatched socks
Until, one day, along came a lion
And gobbled her up in just two hops.
Have a good time.
Look out for Sandra.
Off you go.
Come, my love.
Hello, Mrs Dupier, what a lovely dress.
-What's the name again?
-Laing. I'm Leon's mother.
There. Bed number four, thank you.
-Why are they all staring?
-You're new here, my sweet.
They're just curious.
-Excuse me. What is that?
-Now, what shall we do with Melinda?
Do you want her on the bed like home or shall we put her on the table?
Bed, please, Ma.
So, it's done.
What do you want?
-I'm from Swaziland. That's another country.
-I know that.
-I'm not stupid.
-All my friends have always been black.
I'm not black.
Upon that Jesus reached out his hand, touched him and said, "I want to."
And immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
Close your eyes.
-For what we are about to receive, Lord, make us truly grateful.
I told Annie you weren't black, and she hit me.
Now, in the early days, our country was vast plains.
And on these plains were wild animals and savage natives who were always trying to take our land.
There were many wars between them.
Why do you think that was, students?
Er, Darby... Ya?
Because they were kaffirs, Mevrou.
That's a bad word, we don't use that language in the classroom.
-They couldn't live together because they were different.
-That's right, Annie. Good, good, good! Because they were...?
Even today, we learn that everything about the Bantu is different.
What sort of jobs do they do?
They work in the fields, Mevrou.
-And in the mines.
And in the mines.
My father says he doesn't let them drive the tractors
because they have monkey hands like Sandra.
Look. What does this say?
a piece of paper is not going to reassure all the parents who
call me every day to complain that there's a black child at the school.
Sandra is a disruption.
You are a servant of the State, and the State requires you to look after my child.
You must simply do your job.
My job is to look after all the children at this school.
Sandra does not belong here.
Brave, intelligent... a wonderful child.
Try getting to know her. You'll see.
What do I always say to you?
Never give up.
Never give up!
Look after your sister, Leon.
Love to Mama!
Hey, Mrs Laing. I need a new wife.
This one, she's too expensive!
Why do you talk to them?
Just sell to them, it's all you have to do.
What did they say?
-I made sure they heard what
-had to say.
She'll settle in.
Leon was the same. Takes time.
Am I sick?
Sandra. Sevens, please.
-Seven times one equals seven. Seven times two equals...
BANGS BLACKBOARD Louder.
Seven times one equals seven.
-Seven times two...
Seven times one equals seven.
Seven times two equals 14.
-I said louder! Now begin again.
-Why are you hitting me?
Give me that. Now stand still! WHIP CRACKS
WHIP CRACKS REPEATEDLY
What did I do wrong?
Ask your parents.
Papa, what did I do wrong?
Nothing, my angel. It's all right.
So, you need three big men for one little girl?
Sandra has been reclassified coloured.
-She may no longer attend a white school.
-Are you mad?
She's our child.
What are you going to do next?
Reclassify my wife and me as well?
Keep quiet, or you'll lose your daughter.
-They are losing this country.
-Get off my property! Now!
Don't worry, Sannie.
I will fix this.
-The laws are there to protect us.
Just have to play these people at their own game.
-Can they really take her away from us?
Just as I have trusted you all these years.
How many times must we go through this?
-You know that she is yours.
-You're always so friendly with everyone at the shop.
Who else is there to talk to?
-Are you surprised that people talk and look at me?
-Talk about what?
-I have to live here!
-I live here too!
What do you think it's like for me?
Can I sleep here?
Am I really black like you?
No, child. You are not black. Look.
If you stop shivering, you can feel it move.
I can't feel anything.
There, it's moving.
Oh, she's strong.
What if it's a boy?
Of course, we've always been staunch supporters of the Nationalist government. But you know, to be
slapped in the face by our own people is indeed very sore.
-Mr Laing, does Sandra have to be registered as a domestic worker to stay with you?
-When Sandra's of age,
-who will she be allowed to marry?
-What kind of food does Sandra eat?
-She eats honest, healthy food, made for her by her mother.
Mrs Laing, are you concerned that you're going to be arrested under the morality act?
I have never been unfaithful to my husband.
How do you explain your child's appearance?
I can't explain it.
-If there is black blood in our veins, we never knew about them.
-Sandra, come to your pa.
This is Sandra.
You may take her photograph, but, please, no questions.
REPORTERS ALL TALK AT ONCE
(Abraham, you must stop this.
(I know what I'm doing.)
Freak show, Abraham, that's what that was.
I'm going to get her reclassified white.
How will that change the colour of her skin?
I'm doing it for her.
I'm doing it for all of us.
Look, I've brought you a present.
Maybe we'll get it through those curls one day.
Are you angry?
Do you want to hit me?
Come on, hit me.
I brought you something else.
-Did you put cream on Leon too when he was small?
Because it burns.
HE BLOWS GENTLY
Take a seat, please.
What's your relation?
We're her parents.
Take a seat.
Thank you, we'll stand.
The definition of a white person is a person who in appearance
obviously is a white person and who is not generally accepted as a coloured person.
Or, who is generally accepted as a white person
-and is not in appearance obviously not a white person.
-Is that clear?
Shake your head.
All the way.
Open your mouth.
Show me your teeth.
Thank you, you may go.
Aren't you going to ask about her background, her education, about us, her parents?
We've seen what we needed to see.
So, you see that she is white.
We'll notify you in a few weeks as to what we've determined.
I'm telling you, she is white.
I'm her father, I'm as white as you are.
This is her mother, undeniably white, and Sandra is our daughter.
Blood of our blood.
We'll have to ask you to leave now.
There is nothing to determine.
Look! What is this, what is this?
Look! Tell me!
-Tell me what this is!
-Meneer Laing, stop!
-Look, man! Are you blind?
-Please, Pa, let's go.
Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you very much for your time.
What happens if it looks like Sandra?
You won't love the baby any less, will you?
I love Sandy.
But...it's hard, Ma.
-I know it is.
Should I get Pa?
No, just get the calamine lotion from my bedroom.
Oh, my sweetheart.
They say she's coloured.
What does it matter what a piece of paper says?
Let's just go on with our lives now and look after Sandra the best way that we can.
You don't understand.
We're not going to take this lying down.
She's OUR daughter.
And I'll take on the whole bloody government if I have to.
Never give up, Sannie.
Never give up.
Are you prepared to swear, before God and on the Bible,
that you are the parents of this child?
I am, my Lord.
-I mean, we are, my Lord.
Call in the next witness, please.
I believe you have a statement to make?
I've studied the Laings' case closely...
I'm a great admirer of brevity, Dr Sparks, but will you please
give us your area of expertise and your place of work.
Sorry. Genetics research fellow at Wits University.
-I believe there is a plausible genetic explanation for Sandra's appearance.
The history of our country is such that many, indeed we believe most Afrikaners carry black genes.
ALL TALK AT ONCE
Silence. Please go on.
So, two white-looking parents can contribute enough
black genes to produce a child quite a lot darker than themselves.
This phenomenon is commonly known as a throwback.
We prefer to use the more precise term - polygenic inheritance.
Thank you, Doctor.
What's the matter with you? I didn't kill anyone.
Hurry up, we're having a baby!
He looks just like Pa!
Do you want to hold him?
Just cradle his head in the crook of your arm. That's right.
Now, the trick to getting him to eat...
is to rub his tummy. Just here.
-'And in Parliament today, an amendment was made to the Population Registration Act.
'Descent rather than appearance will be the determining factor in all classification cases.
'Children must now be classified the same race as their parents.
'Our reporter went to the streets of Pretoria to gather reaction.
-'This is a betrayal...'
-She's white again.
She's white again!
Sorry I'm late, the fan belt broke.
I fixed it with my tights the way your Pa taught me.
Who are the handsomes?
They're from the boys' school.
They come over once a month.
Shall I get my bags?
Put your arms down so I can see you.
So grown-up! All "Madam this" and "Madam that" now?
Come and play with me.
No, I want to say hello to Pa.
Tell him not to be late. It's your favourite!
I'll take those and those, that's 25 altogether.
You can pay me next week.
This shop's no place for a young lady.
Look, I got you a typewriter...
Maybe you could work in an office one day. Much nicer.
Ma, I want it below the knees.
You have lovely knees, my sweetheart,
and all the girls wear them above these days.
-What do you think, Pa?
Sandra, my sweet, you look like you have seen a ghost.
It's all too light for me, Ma.
You don't need that stuff. Your skin is perfect.
I don't want to go out with Johan.
Who would you prefer? The Swazi boy?
He's too fat.
And he wears these...
tiny shorts. THEY LAUGH
There's not a lot of choice around here.
..The thing that's not so nice is every Sunday my father chops one of the cocks' head off.
But the flesh is very tender.
The red ones, they are the best layers.
The kids at school, they always said my mother laid the eggs.
Do you know that you can hypnotise a chicken?
I promise you, you just put it on its back and then you draw a line from its beak
and then it just lies there with its mouth open.
You know, you don't have to feel bad about looking like a coloured.
It's OK with me. Really.
I like this song.
..She's with him.
I think someone's complaining about you.
-< We don't want her kind here.
-(Please, let's just go.)
I promised my dad I'd keep you out until six o'clock.
It's just another half-hour.
Will you excuse me?
It might have been easier if you paid your bill.
That's why I made you laugh.
I've got to go.
Wait here, I'll give you a lift home.
You can't walk all the way home.
You won't have any feet left.
My mother can vouch for my good character, we can go and see her now.
It will take us two days, but if you insist...
-You like my van?
I saved up for it.
Two years and eight tonnes of cabbages.
Have you ever driven and danced all at the same time?
I didn't think so.
Just put on the radio for me, please.
Oh, my goodness! La la la la!
Where do you live?
Just over the rainbow.
I'd better go...
Before Pa comes out.
He dropped me at the gate.
-He had to get home.
-Did he talk about chickens all afternoon?
No second date?
You can't expect to find the right one straight away.
It took me a long time to find your Pa.
Look, you pick squashes too early.
I'll take those, and those, 16 altogether.
Have Sandra pay you from the till.
No more than we agreed.
My feet are still sore.
-I have a cure.
-Bring me the books from last night.
What do you think you're doing with my daughter?
Uh... Just talking, we was.
That's the distance you keep when talking to her.
Is your hair like that all over?
Is it kaffir you or white you?
So that's two she's decided aren't good enough for her.
Abraham, leave her alone.
-Do you love me?
-That's a stupid question.
Look at me.
-What do you see?
-I see my beautiful girl.
I'm not white.
-That's what those boys want, a white girl to marry, to have children with.
You're excused from the table, go. Go!
-Can I help at the shop today?
-Didn't you see her bruises?
-Love bites. They're kids.
No, he was hurting her.
Abraham, you know this isn't going to be easy.
Of course it won't be easy.
But what must she do? Stay out here with us for ever?
-There are boys at her school, foreign boys.
-Oh, foreign boys.
They have different ideas, they could take her away.
Take her away.
When she was born, you wanted to hide, out here
in the middle of nowhere and now you want someone to take her away.
No, I want her to have a life. A good life.
She will marry an Afrikaner, because that's what she is. Afrikaans.
-Good morning, boss.
So is it a good secret, the one that you're keeping?
The car needs a new carburettor.
Don't wait. Tell Nora to keep some dinner warm for me.
He is still cross with me.
You could try harder.
You are just as stubborn as he is.
He ignores everything I say.
It's not personal.
Your Pa thinks two words strung together is a conversation.
So, are you going to tell me about it?
It doesn't matter.
My scars traditionally
protect me from evil.
They make me strong and lucky.
That is how I got you.
What about that one?
From my grandmother.
She hit me with a frying pan.
She is a tough woman.
How do you do that?
Make me feel better?
I try hard.
Where have you been?
For a walk...to see Nora.
What are you doing with that kaffir?
-I saw with my own eyes.
This is your fault.
Back to bed, sweetheart.
Move your hand or I'll put a nail through it.
Let's hear what she has to say before you imprison her.
No more smart talk, Sandy, this is serious.
I like him.
-You like him? Like a friend, like a brother?
Petrus is a black man.
-Dirt in this country.
-He understands me, Ma.
You can't help what you were born with, but you can help what you become.
Now, go and wash your face.
You have punished your father enough.
Welcome home, son.
Dead and buried.
That's how you'll be if you come near my property or my family again.
-Sure, Boss Laing.
-You can't be a brave kaffir, so you must be a stupid one.
-I don't think you understand...
-You have till three.
-Remember she's your daughter.
-Why do you think I am doing this?
I didn't let the state take her away. I'm not going to let some bloody kaffir tear my family apart.
Can I help you, boss?
Petrus Zwane. Do you know where he stays?
THEY SPEAK IN SWAHILI
OK. They say he went to Swaziland to a cousin's for a while in Babani.
And who are you?
Get dressed, both of you. Now!
In you go.
How long should she be punished?
That's for the magistrate to decide.
She has committed a crime.
She needs time to think.
you have been detained for three months for entering the Kingdom of Swaziland illegally.
I am prepared to release you now
on condition you return to your parents' home until you are of age.
Sandra, come. You heard what the magistrate said.
You put me in there. I'm not going with you.
My baby, please come home. Your father knows that he was wrong.
We want you home, Sandra. Your mother, Adriaan, Leon.
And me, too. I want you home.
It's not possible.
Please, we made a mistake, both of us.
Sandra, if you don't come now you will never see your family again, I promise you.
He doesn't mean it.
Do you still want me home?
You two are the only family your mother and I have now.
She left you, too, you know?
SHE WAILS IN PAIN
It's coming. Push!
He OK. Here is your baby.
SHOUTS OF DELIGHT
SNEEZES AND RECITES
-Where's your truck?
-I sold it. Investment for the future.
And with a shop, we can buy two more.
Maybe 100 more.
JAZZY MUSIC PLAYS
Now, this is one thing they'll never take away from us.
Can you imagine them doing that?
-Was Petrus always such a show off?
But with you now, he has something to show off about.
Please, he meant no harm.
Petrus, where's the beer? I'm not drunk enough.
-I thought you were happy here.
-Then why are you writing letters to your mother?
-I miss her.
It doesn't mean I don't love you.
Nora, what did she just give you?
-Give it to me.
Tell Sandra her mother wants nothing to do with her. Off you go.
If you ever lie to me again, I'll kick you out of here.
-Can't we go to them?
-I'm begging you, please.
-You realise how these people are living?
-She's your daughter.
OK, so we go and see them. Then what?
We bring them here, make a home for her and the baby out the back with Nora?
What are you talking about? Sandra lives here with us.
Must we invite him to live in the house with us, as well?
All I am asking is that we see Sandra and her baby.
No. She made that choice.
CAR ENGINE REVS
Get out. Get out!
You know what keeps me awake at night?
Maybe she made the right choice.
Put that away. I don't like things that make you sad.
I want to be your wife.
-I mean your real wife.
You know what that involves.
Too much of your father in you.
So, you want to be reclassified coloured?
Yes. My son is coloured and I want to marry his father, who is black.
And you are?
White. According to the government.
Is this a joke?
I'm afraid not.
-Are you the father?
Just a minute.
I'm sorry, I can't help you.
I need your birth certificate. Next!
Wait. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?
As long as you don't have an ID card, you don't exist.
Well if I don't exist, can I still live with my coloured child and his black father?
No. You're breaking the law.
-This is him.
Do you know who I am?
Did your mother tell you about me?
Why didn't you write?
I did. Your Pa burned all the letters.
I wish we had more time. Your Pa's going to be back any minute.
Ma, I need my birth certificate.
I want to be reclassified coloured.
Ma, they could take my baby away from me.
Oh, Sandy, are you sure?
Yes. I'm happy.
I'll find a way to get it to you, I promise.
Can I keep this, until next time?
Stay in the car.
Your grandson has your eyes.
If I ever find them here,
I will kill them and then myself.
You were given more than enough warning.
This is now a whites-only area.
Please proceed in an orderly manner.
-I don't know what else to bring.
-You don't need that.
Or your birth certificate. In your head, you're still white.
I left my family for you, Petrus.
I don't know what else to give you.
You don't understand. I have nothing. My son has nothing.
And you can always go home.
This is my home!
They take our homes, our families.
And we are supposed to believe we're human?
My wife is white.
Her skin is a curse.
I'm pregnant again.
It's a blessing.
-It doesn't like it, Hendry.
-Leave me alone.
He says his leg is much better.
The doctor says it's fractured not broken.
He should be able to send money home soon and he misses you.
Not now, I'm busy.
Hendry hit me.
Let's hope it bites him, eh?
He's sorry he hasn't written in so long, but he was arrested.
I can't make out the next bit.
Break it up. Break it. That's it.
"My Dearest Ma,
"I think of you and Pa...
You can't read my letters.
Is the white madam telling the kaffir what he can and cannot do?
Watch carefully. This is how my mother taught me how to make it.
Hey. I'm sick of hearing about your mother.
You want to make things grow, you need water.
Didn't your mother tell you that?
I'll keep in touch, I promise.
You've been like a mother to me.
A gogo, maybe. We all have two gogos, but only one mother.
I know you.
We played together as children, you taught me to swim.
Her father. Shout, shout!
Where did my parents go?
She went to Pongola. There were relatives there. A cousin.
Yes, I think so.
Hey. Do you want a lift?
Wait. Let me explain.
Go away or I'll call the police.
It's me, mama.
I need to see you.
'I've left Petrus.
'Tell me where you are.'
Sannie, who is it?
'I'm sorry, Sandra.
'Your father is very sick.'
I miss you so much.
I love you, mama.
I have to go to him now.
'I love you, too.'
Where is she?
With Anna in Pongola.
Take me to her.
It's not possible, I'm telling you.
You are too sick. I'm going to get your lunch and your tablets now.
What the hell are you doing?!
I'm going to Pongola. I'm going to see her.
You are going nowhere.
Now get back to bed.
All these years you've kept us apart, you didn't even want to see the pictures of her children.
What has changed?
Why is it OK to go now?
Please, I need to see her.
You need to see her?
I have needed to see her every day for the last 10 years.
I'm so sorry, I was wrong.
I have to tell her.
You want her forgiveness?
You don't deserve it. Neither do I.
Sannie, I'm begging you.
You made your choice.
-Let's do it.
Could we ask some questions?
OK, don't look at the camera.
Did you vote today?
-She needs to speak up.
A little bit louder this time.
Most people will remember your story, how do you feel about the changes happening in South Africa?
I'm happy for the country
but it's too late for me.
I haven't seen my parents in nearly 20 years.
I don't know where they are.
Sandra. Sandra, can I get your autograph?
She thinks she's too famous for us!
Hendry! Come and help me, please.
-Is it a secret admirer?
-It's from my mother.
My father died of cancer.
Two years ago.
I can read it for you, Mum.
The money's from my father.
The same amount he left my brothers.
Is that it?
-Are you going to write back, Mum?
-There's no return address.
-We cannot release that information.
-I thought this was the new South Africa.
-Haven't you heard of the Freedom Of Information Act?
-Too many times.
I'm not leaving till you give me my file.
There's a lady here by the name of Sandra Laing. She doesn't want to go away. She's talking about....
-You won't remember me.
I know who you are.
I heard you got yourself classified coloured again.
It was necessary.
After all the trouble your father went to.
My father is dead.
I need you to help me find my mother before she also dies.
Sandra, we don't keep those records here.
Where else can I go?
This is a pensions office, not a detective agency.
If she's alive, you must pay her a pension.
Surely you have her details?
There are 70 other clerks here and it's always me.
You've got a kind face.
No, I don't.
I have a fat face. People can't tell the difference.
Oh, sorry, the old lady left months ago.
-I heard she had a stroke.
Was it really worth it, Ma?
I thought you understood.
I thought so too.
But what's wrong with us?
Aren't we enough for you?
Of course you are.
You never stop needing your parents.
They're part of who you are.
HAMMERING AT DOOR
Oh, hello, Coco.
Phone for you, Sandra.
I, er, spoke to the Chief of Police.
He made some enquiries.
Your daughter's here to see you.
Well, aren't you going to say something?
You had plenty to say to that TV reporter.
I just told the truth.
You weren't the only one who suffered, you know.
I shouldn't have come.
Is there a key in the dresser?
No, not there, the draw.
No, the other one...
-Let me help you?
-I can get it myself.
Don't be so stubborn, Ma.
Unlock that cupboard.
I put it in storage so your pa couldn't get it.
Doves shit a lot.
Your pa didn't like me swearing but I enjoy it now.
He wasn't a bad man.
He did the best he could.
Never give up.
I wish that I had never heard those words.
they kept me going.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Powerful drama based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a black woman who - due to a rare genetic irregularity - was born to white Afrikaner parents in 1950s South Africa and ostracised from white society as a result of the apartheid regime.