Chann: I watched the continual hurt and disenfranchisement of so many wonderful darker-skinned black women by other black women and men over the years. Growing up a dark-skinned male, I knew what was being said to my face, and I knew what was being said about them—in front of and behind their backs. I am always ready to champion things which are not openly discussed. I make films to facilitate change.
What was the most surprising fact you learned about colorism around the world during your two-year film shoot?
Chann: I learned that all women are "dark girls" at some point in their lives. This speaks to worthiness and self-esteem. When I have gotten requests for this film from all over the world, including places like Poland—this issue actually goes beyond hueism. Women want to talk about the innuendo and subtleties they have been subjected to during their lives. Every single culture has this issue in some form.
How has colorism affected the women in your family?
Chann: For the most part, all the women in my family are beautiful deeper-hued ladies, and each of them had stories to tell. But, because each of them is valued for who they are, their baggage load was very light. Don't think for a moment that they weren't touched by this, and they are happy the film was done, but they are very self-empowered people.
What's been the most interesting response to this film?
Chann: At many of the screenings, women stood at the mic and had to get themselves together before speaking to tell their story. To have 60-something women weep from a memory of something someone said to them—or about them—when they were preteens is heartbreaking. Lots of women came into the screenings not suspecting to have an aha! moment, but when the lights came up, they're sitting there crying or nodding their heads. One by one, slowly at first, they want to say something. Then it's like a flood—everyone wants to tell their experience! We've been in so many places where the discussion has continued into the lobby.
What was the hardest part of making the film?
Chann: Believe it or not, it was the editing process. We had no problems getting participants. We had problems narrowing the testimonies and then selecting which ones to use and editing for time. There's enough on the floor for another film.
Has the film changed the way you act?
Chann: I have sons. I am more aware of being careful of my own words and actions, both spoken and displayed. They watch everything you project. The little nuances of opinion you think they don't key into...they do! I want them to know their value, and I want them to treat women as they would their mother, grandmother, cousins or aunts.
The documentary Dark Girls will be released on DVD on September 24, 2013. Find out more at OfficialDarkGirlsMovie.com.