In celebration of Black History Month, the Goethe-Institut Washington would like to spotlight an important Afro-German voice in film by screening Ines Johnson-Spain's 2019 documentary Becoming Black
Imagine that your parents are white but your skin color is dark, and you're told that it's all pure coincidence. This is what happened to a young girl in East Berlin during the 1960s.
Years before, a group of young men from West Africa came to study in an East German village. There, a local woman named Sigrid fell in love with Lucien from Togo, and became pregnant. But she was already married to Armin, a white German.
The child is filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain. Meeting her stepfather Armin and others from her childhood years, Johnson-Spain tracks the astonishing strategies of denial that her parents, loved ones, and community members developed.
In an intimate portrayal – but also critical exploration – Johnson-Spain brings together painful and confusing childhood memories with matter-of-fact accounts that testify a culture of rejection and tight-lipped denial.
Yet the movingly warm encounters with her Togolese family also develop Becoming Black into a reflection on themes such as identity, social norms, and family ties, seen from a very personal perspective.
About the Filmmaker
Ines Johnson-Spain is an independent German/Togolese filmmaker based in Berlin. She studied Sciences of Religions at Freie-Universität Berlin (FU) and was a guest student for Fine Arts and Painting at University of Arts Berlin.
She worked for many years as a scenic painter and in various positions of the art departments of national and international film productions (e.g. Peter Greenaway, The Tulse Luper Suitcases;
Anders Thomas Jensen, Men and Chicken;
Lana Wachowsky, Sense8
; Andrej Swjaginzew, Die Verbannung