Filmmaker, and former Ballet dancer, Rebecca Murray was compelled to make this film after her training showed her the real lack of diversity the ballet world offered, where the majority of her peers were white. This spurred Murray on to get in contact with a ballet dancer she had admired from social media, and so became The Uncomfortable Truth Of Being A Black Ballerina.
Marie-Astrid Mence, a ballet dancer from Paris, narrates her life growing up as a black dancer in a white privileged art. Mence narrates the uncomfortable truths of her life as a ballerina and her struggles in an industry that fails to see past her skin color. The opening frame was specifically designed to shock the audience. It highlights why pointe shoes were designed to match the skin tone but gives the audience a deeper meaning when Mence asks the question, ‘I always wondered why they never chose to match mine?’ This documentary is an eye-opener to the ballet industry and the lack of support for diversity,
Murray "For me ‘Pointe Black’ started out as a passion project, to support black dancers and the lack of opportunities in ballet. I discovered Marie-Astrid on Instagram and got in touch with her. We first spoke via Zoom and discussed her journey growing up in Paris as a black dancer. It shocked me to hear all the racist comments and the mental health issues she had to battle. It hit a nerve deeply as I trained in the same industry but didn’t experience any form of racism because I am white. This is what triggered me to really make this into something special.
After our zoom meeting I read through the script several times to plan out the best strategy to make this documentary. With her words being so strong I knew the visuals had to be kept simple. Working with a small budget I knew we only had one location to film in which I played to my advantage. When searching for a dance studio I knew I wanted a specific colour, it may sound stupid but when I saw the blue studio at Dance Attic, I knew how well it would match with her skin tone.
I made sure we had 3 set ups in the room, one being by the mirror, another by the window and lastly by the piano.
Mence then goes onto explain her life growing up in a racist art. I wanted this section to be beautiful and elegant to match her graceful performance. Liam, my cinematographer was great to work with. He understood the need for simple framing and natural lighting. We worked mainly with handheld shots to make the viewer feel more connected with her emotions. I decided to end the film back at the mirror because Mence reflects on her life. The intention is to show she is back where she started but has grown and risen through her battles as a beautiful black dancer. Throughout the film she doesn’t look at the camera as she is in her own space. When Mence suddenly stares down the lens it creates a powerful moment of realisation and pride.
I thank Marie-Astrid for trusting me and opening about her life, its not easy and I am so glad I was able to create a visual that highlights the importance for change in her industry, ballet."