The film was released to a limited number of US cinemas on 30 October 2009. It started showing in South Africa on 22 January 2010, and in Australia and New Zealand 25 July 2010.
The year is 1965, and 10-year-old Sandra and her parents, Abraham and Sannie, are white Afrikaners. Her parents are shopkeepers in a remote area of the Eastern Transvaal and, despite Sandra's mixed-race appearance, have lovingly brought her up as their white little girl. Sandra is sent to a boarding school in the neighbouring town of Piet Retief, where her (white) brother Leon is also studying, but parents of other students and teachers complain that she does not belong.
She is examined by State officials, reclassified as coloured, and expelled from the school. Sandra's parents are shocked, but Abraham fights through the courts to have the classification reversed. The story becomes an international scandal and media pressure forces the law to change, so that Sandra is classified as officially white again.
By the time she is 17, Sandra realises she is never going to be accepted by the white community. She falls in love with Petrus, a young black man and the local vegetable seller, and begins an illicit love affair. Abraham threatens to shoot Petrus and disown Sandra. Sannie is torn between her husband's rage and her daughter's predicament. Sandra elopes with Petrus to Swaziland. Abraham alerts the police, and has them arrested and put in prison for the illegal border crossing. Sandra is released by the local magistrate to return home with her parents, but she decides to return to Petrus, as she is pregnant with his child. Her father disowns her.
Now Sandra must live her life as a coloured woman in South Africa for the first time, restricted to housing with no running water and no sanitation, and struggling on little income. Although she feels more at home in this community, she desperately misses her parents and yearns for a reunion. She and her mother make attempts to communicate, but are consistently thwarted by Sandra's father. Late in his life, when he is too sick to act on his own, he reconsiders and asks his wife to take him to visit Sandra. Sandra's mother, angry that his new-found guilt had surfaced only after he had for 10 years stubbornly ignored her own emotional torment and longing for a reunion, refuses his request and says that neither of them deserves Sandra's forgiveness.
Eventually, Sandra's marriage to Petrus deteriorates and he becomes physically abusive. She leaves him, taking their two children with her. She looks for her parents but finds they had since moved from her childhood home. Not knowing where they are, she continues with her life, raising her children by herself.
When the country's apartheid government comes to an end, there is renewed interest in her story by the media. Sandra's mother sees Sandra interviewed on television and writes to her to tell her of her father's death two years earlier. The letter provides no return address nor any other clue as to Sannie's whereabouts, but receiving it prompts Sandra to renew her search. Eventually, she finds her mother living in a nursing home and the two are happily reunited.
An epilogue tells that Sandra's mother died in 2001, and her two brothers continue to refuse to see her or her family.Sophie Okonedo ... Sandra Laing
Sam Neill ... Abraham Laing
Alice Krige ... Sannie Laing
Tony Kgoroge ... Petrus Zwane
Terri Ann Eckstein ... Elsie Laing (aged 19)
Bongani Masondo ... Henry Laing (aged 20)
Ella Ramangwane ... Young Sandra Laing
Jonathan Pienaar ... Van Niekerk
Hannes Brummer ... Leon Laing
Onida Cowan ... Miss Van Uys
Lauren Das Neves ... Elize
Skin has won 19 international festival awards, including Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Audience Award), Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival (Audience and Jury Awards), AFI Dallas International Film Festival (Audience Award), Palm Beach International Film Festival (Jury Award, Best Film), Rochester High Falls International Film Festival (Audience Award), Tri-Continental, South Africa (Audience Award), Bordeaux Cinema Science Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize, Best Film), Mediterrante Film Festival (Bari), Italy (Best Film), Belize International Film Festival (Audience Award), Moondance International Film Festival, USA (Best Score, Hélène Muddiman), Accolade Award For Excellence (Original Score Hélène Muddiman), United Nations Time For Peace Award (Voted by 21 UN Ambassadors), Amnesty International Humanitarian Award (Italy), Griffon Environmental Award, Giffoni Film Festival, Italy, Orange Film Prize, Ability Media International Awards, MAE Moseac Award for Best Independent Film, MAE Moseac Award for Best Actress (Sophie Okonedo), Bahamas International Film Festival, Rising Star Award, Sophie Okonedo.
British Independent Film Awards 2009, Best Actress (Sophie Okonedo) NAACP Image Awards 2010 (Outstanding Foreign Film and Best Actress, Sophie Okonedo) Black Reel Awards 2010 (Sophie Okonedo, Best Actress) Political Film Society, (Best Film) Ivor Novello Awards (Best Score), Hélène Muddiman