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Family | LOOK AND LISTEN

'Whitewash' Hits Racism Head-On in Moving Message of Hope, Unity

June 25, 1998|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Video

Whitewash. First Run Features. $14.95. 25 minutes. For the family. This multiple-award-winning animated film from Michael Sporn turns a despicable real-life event--the attack by racist thugs on a little black girl in the Bronx whom they sprayed with white paint--into a profoundly moving message of hope, unity and strength.

Helene Angel is the little girl so devastated by the attack that she won't leave her room. Her loving grandmother (beautifully voiced by Ruby Dee) and the earnest, warm support of her teacher (Linda Lavin) and classmates--white, black and every other color--eventually restore her confidence and her spirit.

Serena Henry gives touching voice to Helene, and Ndehru Roberts is convincing as an older brother who suffers conflicting feelings: remorse at his inability to protect his sister and self-importance at the intense media attention.

Indeed, the deceptively simple film, written by noted poet Ntozake Shange, takes an unsparing look at how exploitative and intrusive the media can be in pursuit of a story.

Meanwhile, in the artwork, Sporn's textured, nuanced sweeps of color dramatically reflect the film's warmth, violence, sadness, anger and uplift.

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