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Gibbes Museum’s Film Series to Focus on Racial Passing



Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson appear in “Passing” by Rebecca Hall, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Edu Grau

The Gibbes Museum of Art has announced the second installment of its film series, titled “Gibbes Films in Focus: Passing Strange,” which will feature the Lowcountry’s first screening of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival selection, “Passing,” by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, Andre Holland, and Alexander Skarsgård and adapted from the groundbreaking novel by Nella Larsen.

In this series, the Gibbes will explore the tradition of race-passing narratives as represented on the silver screen. From Kate Chopin’s 1893 short story “Désirée’s Baby,” to the 1936 and 1951 adaptations of the musical “Showboat,” America has been enthralled by passing narratives, whereby a person of Black descent, but of ambiguous or white features, slips into white society, destabilizing the strict racial codes that have governed so much of American life. This three-part series will be held at the museum this fall.

“Whether a classic noir or a cutting-edge documentary, the Gibbes believes in the power of great filmmaking to bring people together, to put audiences in touch with new ideas and to celebrate the diversity of the human experience,” says Angela Mack, the Gibbes Museum of Art’s executive director. “With the addition of ‘Passing’ to the lineup of feature films, we hope to educate and inspire viewers, while allowing them to experience this special screening of a 2021 Sundance selection.”

“An Imitation of Life,” October 1st, 2021, 6:30 pm

A widow (Claudette Colbert) builds up a business, aided by a Black woman (Louise Beavers) with an incorrigible, fair-skinned daughter (Fredi Washington). The two women start a successful business, but subsequently face familial, identity and racial issues along the way.An Imitation of Life” stars Fredi Washington, one of the first actresses of color to achieve recognition in stage and film in the 1920s and 30s. Her casting in this role is significant because she plays a Black woman who chooses to pass, and the actress herself was of African American descent. For more information about this screening and to register, visit Watch the trailer here.

Devil in a Blue Dress,” October 23rd, 2021, 3 pm

In the summer of 1948, World War II veteran Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) needs a job and becomes drawn into the search for a mysterious woman (Jennifer Beales). For more information about this screening and to register, visit Watch the trailer here.

Passing,” November 19th, 2021, 6:30 pm

Adapted from the celebrated 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen, “PASSING” tells the story of two Black women, Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga), who can “pass” as white but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in late 1920s New York. After a chance encounter reunites the former childhood friends one summer afternoon, Irene reluctantly allows Clare into her home, where she ingratiates herself to Irene’s husband (André Holland) and family, and soon her larger social circle as well. As their lives become more deeply intertwined, Irene finds her once-steady existence upended by Clare, and “PASSING” becomes a riveting examination of obsession, repression and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities. This will be the first screening of “PASSING” in Charleston and will include a message from the film’s director, Rebecca Hall. For more information about this screening and to register, visit

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and faculty with valid ID.

For more information about Gibbes Films in Focus: Passing Strange, visit

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  1. Pingback: Mixed Race Studies » Scholarly Perspectives on Mixed-Race » Gibbes Museum’s Film Series to Focus on Racial Passing

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