Why Do You Have Black Dolls?, a short documentary film inspired by an 8-year-old’s question, explores the historical and cultural significance of the black doll.
Samantha Knowles, the film’s director, says a friend asked her the question when she was a child.
“Her question stuck with me for a long time,” she told Dartmouth Now. “I can’t remember how I responded in that moment, but I saw this film as an opportunity to explore that question.”
The film debuted at the 15th annual Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival this past weekend. On the website, it’s described as a film that “explores the history, the beauty, and the pride that is the black doll.”
Knowles followed a community of black doll enthusiasts in hopes of revealing that the black doll is “more than a plaything; it is a cultural artifact that represents the history of the people it depicts.”
As one woman in the film’s trailer points out: “Black dolls have been around for as long as humans have been around.” And it doesn’t seem like they’ll be going anywhere, as evidenced by the return of the popular 1990s Kenya doll.
Knowles plans to continue promoting and distributing her film in hopes of educating others about the black doll’s significance.
“I’ve received a lot of interest and encouragement from the black doll enthusiasts that I interviewed,” she said. “And I am really looking forward to having this film reach a broader audience.”
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