‘Skin’, The True Story Of a Former Neo-Nazi Who Managed To Erase The Traces Of Hate

SCORE OF THE FILM: 72/100 Rarely comes a feature film where the director’s story is as emotional as the film itself. So much that it must be told so that his work has more weight on the conscious emotion of the spectator. It is the case of Skin, the American debut of the Israeli Guy Nattiv that tells us the true story of a reformed neo-Nazi who underwent almost two years of painful laser surgeries to remove tattoos from his body and reinserted into society. film that invites us to reflect on forgiveness through the story of a (former) skinhead and leader of a group of white supremacists named Byron Widner who entered the witness protection program (where he still belongs) masterfully played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot). And because of those ironies of fate, Nattiv ran into his story and turned it into a film, but only after receiving his grandfather’s approval. He is the grandson of two Holocaust survivors. Courtesy of Watching CinemaMoreThe lovers of the documentary genre probably know the history of Widner. He himself was the protagonist of Erasing hate, a 2011 television documentary that portrays the 16 months of 25 surgeries he had to undergo to eliminate neo-Nazi tattoos that filled much of his skin. Widner grew up in a family of skinheads. Hatred and violence were part of his life until he fell in love and decided to turn his back on the movement, being forced to enter the witness protection program for the persecution and threats received. And Skin portrays his story, emphasizing the hatred of a character as a way of life and the redemption that only forgiveness grants. All with disturbing music that accompanies every gesture and moment of one of Jamie Bell’s best performances.Skin marks the American debut of this well-known Israeli director on his land. He already added several feature films and shorts in his filmography when he decided to make the leap to Los Angeles to tell the story of Byron Widner. But let’s go to the beginning. As Guy himself told us in an intimate talk we had at the movie’s premiere in Spain, he learned about it through an article he read in a newspaper in his country when he was having coffee in Tel Aviv. It was 2012 and he was looking for an idea to debut with his first feature film in the US after having a distance relationship with his wife. Byron’s story immediately struck him due to his grandparents’ past, feeling “excited and moved by someone who had made such a huge change in his life.” Despite being in the witness protection program, the director managed to contact Widner through an email courtesy of the documentary producer. He told him all his story, that of his grandparents and the reasons that led him to want to tell his life on the big screen. He had to arm himself with patience and three months later Byron responded. Following different protection guidelines, they held a Skype conference to make sure the director was who he said he was and then they met at a cafe in New Mexico. Although Widner drove around the cafe four times to make sure it wasn’t a hoax from the movement that could still keep looking for him. “I was the first Israeli Jew he ever met in his life,” Nattiv told me. “And he is the first ex neonazi skinhead that I met. At first I thought it was strange, but it was a magnificent meeting with a very human person who spent a lot in his life. ” They agreed and the director spent the next three years writing the script. Once finished, it was already running 2015/2016 and about 50 producers rejected the project. The excuse? “We have Obama, Hilary Clinton is about to be president, she doesn’t excite the people of the Midwest, why do she do it?” With his manager he tried to explain the investigation they had done, that the neo-Nazi movement was still active and enormous. “Nobody believed us,” says the director. Faced with the refusal, he decided to make a short film, also titled Skin, with which he won the Oscar for the best real action short film in 2018 (it is a different story but also portrays the discrimination and hatred of the movement and works perfectly as a double view). He wrote the script on a weekend and financed the project with all his savings. He shot it in 4 days and the same producers reacted differently. Everything had changed. The reality had shaken the United States. Donald Trump was president since January 2017 and the Charlottesville riots over the manifestations of white supremacists and ultranationalists rocked the country in August of that year. Suddenly everything had changed and his ideas gained relevance. And so, shortly after, he got financing for the feature film. “When the Americans made films about the Vietnam War it had already been 10 years because then people had the guts to watch them. Americans have trouble seeing the reality in their face. This [el movimiento neonazi] It is part of America and it is difficult for them to digest. They want escapism and they find it difficult to see this movie, ”he told us after the reactions received before and after the movie. Read more His grandfather’s. “My boy superheroes were not Superman or Spider-Man. They were my grandparents, heroes who returned from the horror and so I grew up, surrounded by their incredible stories, ”says Nattiv. When he read Byron’s story in that newspaper, his grandfather was still alive and went to ask for his advice and approval before embarking on the adventure. “Look, I taught you that the ability to accept someone who used to be a bad person but wants to be better is harder than fighting racism,” his grandfather reminded him. “One of the lessons my grandparents gave me was the importance of dialogue. Without him, there is no peace, there is nothing, ”he emphasizes. “My grandfather influenced me a lot.” And so, with his blessing, he embarked on the adventure, because it is a story so ingrained to his past that shows the internal crudeness that exists in the movement, between themselves and with others, he tells us that it was very difficult to shoot the scenes that portray the violence of the neo-Nazi movement. “It was difficult physically and emotionally.” The director was struck by Byron Widner who confessed that he did not understand why he used to hate the Jews, but that he had been taught to hate them. And it is one of the ideas from which the story starts. Skin shows how hate is taught, that there are those who are victims of those who impart it as a way of life through manipulation. And it is shocking to see and feel it through the transformation of Jamie Bell, from the young skinhead convinced of his belief to his doubts and final decision. The actor, who was inspired by Taxi driver for his interpretation, took time to decide if he accepted the project due to the crudeness of the story. But he did and gave everything. “He gained weight, went to live with Byron Widner, got deep into the character and in the end he needed several months to heal the role and be himself again. Shortly afterwards he obtained the role in Rocketman, who told me that he helped him get rid of the burden of this story. It was not easy for him ”tells about the work of his protagonist. And it really is amazing to see his ability to transform into two films so different in a year. In Skin, this young Briton takes a side that we had not seen until now where he stripped the hatred through a performance delivered, while in Rocketman his character was pure understanding and compassion. A wonder. Courtesy of Watching CineMásSkin uses the process of eliminating tattoos as the basis for the story, teaching the pain and suffering after the process in different sequences in order to emphasize the physical image and make us feel the real detachment of the movement in its psyche as a metaphor for how it was erasing the traces of hate. That’s why tattoos play a special role in history with the design of makeup specialist Stephen Bettles doing the hard work of mimicking each of Widner’s real tattoos. They were replaced every day for 5 hours, causing Jamie Bell to get up at 4 in the morning so he could be ready to start filming day. And he didn’t take them off. The makeup allowed the tattoos not to be erased with water so they were left at the end of the work day to experience with the character the reaction of people in the streets, supermarkets and public places, although it is inevitable that the world Compare, Guy Nattiv wants the viewer to know that his film is not inspired or related to American History X, that 1998 classic about two neo-Nazi brothers who still survive in the collective memory of the spectators. “That was a 90s movie, completely different from what happens today. Today, neo-Nazis are more brutal … it’s like a terrorist organization. When I see it now it seems like a naive movie. ” He wants to make it clear that that production starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong was not his inspiration for this film, but he turned to his cinephile memory with classics of “political and social reality” such as Taxi Driver (1976) and Wild Bull (1980), Bronson (2008) with Tom Hardy or Chopper (2000) with Eric Bana. “Movies with characters of fucking masculinity,” as he describes them. In short, Skin wants to show that hate is instilled, not born with him, and that forgiveness and redemption are possible when there is will and love involved. And that dialogue, as his grandfather taught him, is the path to peace and understanding. Proof of this is that Byron Widner, a former skinhead who was taught to hate Jews, immigrants and African Americans, maintains a close friendship with the African-American activist who helped him out of the movement, Daryle Jenkins (played by Mike Colter). Together they were in the shooting and nowadays they are still friends with the director of the film. Courtesy of Watch CineMásSkin is a film shot 3 years ago but that could not be more successful in its premiere. And remember what I tell you, Guy Nattiv is a director to keep track of. With this feature film he manages to convey empathy for the change of a character that would be easy to reject for the general public. His film delves into the figure of Byron and his transformation, and although he could have investigated more in the rest of the characters of the skinhead family due to the interesting interpretations of his cast (especially Vera Farmiga), Skin works as an almost intimate drama which seeks reflection beyond sociopolitical impact. And his next movie couldn’t sound more interesting. Once again, those personal superheroes, their grandparents will once again be a source of inspiration. In this case, your grandmother. The film already has funding and will tell its incredible story since after returning from the horror of the Holocaust, depression and thoughts of suicide settled in his life until he met a woman “beautiful, odalisque and similar to Sofia Loren who promised that would make her happy. ” The family began to see that friendship worked, but “we didn’t know that, in reality, this woman was a cult leader. He had 35 women around him and my grandmother was joining until he entered the cult ”reveals Guy almost secretly. The grandmother left her grandfather to follow this mysterious woman“ after living together as Polish Holocaust survivors. He gave him all the German money received as compensation, cut off all contact with us and moved to Jerusalem and later to Virginia. ” Harmonia, the film, will be filmed later this year and will be about “post-trauma, the feeling of belonging, family, pursuit of happiness, many more things.” Skin lands in the movie theaters on March 6 with a true story that invites us to reflect on the capacity of change of the human being but, above all, of forgiveness towards the neighbor. And all with the seal of a director who dares to leave his most personal mark on a story that touches him in the bowels.More stories that may interest you:

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