Passing premiered on January 30th at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
Written and directed by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson, Alexander Skarsgard, Ruth Negga and André Holland, Passing -based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen- tells the story of two high school friends, Clare and Irene, who become obsessed with one another’s lives.
Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival director of programming, chatted with Director Rebecca Hall, and cast members Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland. Watch below.
Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson), a refined, upper-class 1920s woman, finds breezy refuge from a hot summer day in the grand tearoom of New York City’s Drayton Hotel. Across the room, she spots a blond woman staring her down. Irene wants to steal away, but before she can, Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga) rushes over to stop her. It turns out the two were in high school together, and while both are African American women who can “pass” as white, they have chosen to live on opposite sides of the color line. Now, their renewed acquaintance threatens them both.
Passing is an elegant psychological thriller about obsession, repression, and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities. In her debut feature, Rebecca Hall uses creamy, mesmerizing black-and-white cinematography and a deft directorial restraint to adapt Nella Larsen’s acclaimed 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel into an affecting experiential insight into the pursuit of happiness and authenticity by those navigating the grinding tensions of American racism.