In the opening of the documentary Shadeism, director and writer Nayani Thiyagarajah stands on a beach looking intently at the sun. As the sun rises, her voiceover says, “the sight of the sun is not always a good thing – at least not in my family. Though we may come from a small island that sees sunshine almost daily, the sun doesn’t receive a lot of love from us.”
In this short 20-minute documentary, Thiyagarajah, a recent Ryerson Journalism School graduate, unravels the issue of shadeism (discrimination between lighter and darker skinned members of the same community) by exploring how it affects young women. Thiyagarajah was inspired to make this documentary after realizing her four-year-old niece already felt that in order to be beautiful, she needs to be white. By incorporating interviews and media analysis, the film sheds light on how relevant the idea of being “fair and lovely” is in South Asian, African, Caribbean and South American cultures and how this notion is tied to colonialism.
Since being posted online a few weeks ago, the documentary has received 18,000 views, had its premiere at the Regent Park Film Festival and was featured on CBC radio’s Metro Morning (click the link for a podcast of the interview). On November 25, there will be a free screening of Shadeism at Ryerson University with director Thiyagarajah in attendance.
Editor: Brian Han
Lead Research: Vanessa Rodrigues
Lead Camera: Leanne McAdams
Producer: Derek Rider
Writer/Director: Nayani Thiyagarajah