Rebecca Hall says her directorial debut, Passing, which is based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name, is an adaptation that offers contemporary implications on race.
Hall, who says she wrote the draft of the screenplay 13 years ago after reading the book for the first time, tells ABC Audio that, like Larson’s novel, her film also shows the “dangers” in adhering to the unspoken rules of what it is to be Black or white in America.
“I think we all go through this negotiation…whether we’re in the 1920s or now, or any time, where we think, ‘What is the kind of person that I want to be versus what is the sort of person that I think I ought to be?’” she says. “And how much…of they ‘think I ought to be’ have we internalized?’”
Hall says that internalization of how to assimilate to a specific race or culture is what both of her characters struggle with in the film. In fact, the director says Larsen is specifically making a critique about the “rigidity around these categories” and that there is “no monolithic version of Blackness or whiteness” or any other “identity” category.
“It’s interesting how complicated Irene’s own relationship is to her Black identity,” Hall shares. “Like she really wants to be an upstanding member of the Black community. She reads Crisis magazine, she organizes… the dance in the league…”
She continues, “But she cannot talk to her husband or her children about the difficulties of living in a racist society. And I think that’s poignant today, as it was ever.“
Passing, also starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga is now available to stream on Netflix.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.