Black Twitter debates racial passability as ‘Passing’ trailer premieres

'Passing' is set to launch at the New York Film Festival this October

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Netflix just dropped the trailer for Passing, a film starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two Black women in the Harlem Renaissance, one passing for white, the other living as Black.

Earlier this year, Netflix acquired the writes to Passing, an upcoming film adaptation of the classic Harlem Renaissance novel of the same name by Nella Larson. With the deal landing around $15.75 million, Netflix is getting ready to release the film starring Thompson, Negga, Andre Holland, and Alexander Skarsgard and directed and written by Rebecca Hall.

The film will premiere at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 3, followed by a theatrical release and then a streaming one.

Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga attends the premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “Ad Astra” at The Cinerama Dome on September 18, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

The film’s trailer finally gave viewers a glimpse of the film, which is presented in black and white, clearly sticking with the theme of race and privilege in the story.

The trailer immediately found its way on Black Twitter, with many people chiming in with their takes on the film, and whether or not they believe Negga would actually be able to pass in the 1920s or today.

Some fans found it hard to believe Negga would be able to pass in real life.

One Twitter user wrote, “Aint nothing ‘white passing’ about that woman…Cut the sh-t Netflix,” with accompanying crying emojis. Another user agreed, writing, “Netflix has lost their mf minds. Do they know what passing means??”

Some people did not appreciate the discourse, however, pointing out that while Negga may not seem “white-passing” to some, many “white-passing” actors get to play Black roles in Hollywood.

One user wrote, “these conversations about the white passing netflix movie are annoying. y’all have no problem when biracial people play fully black people so let them play fully white people.”

Tessa Thompson
Tessa Thompson attends the Premiere Of HBO’s “Westworld” Season 3 TCL Chinese Theatre on March 05, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Writer and editor Britni Danielle pointed out in a tweet that the point of the film is that, to Black people, Negga’s character does not pass, writing, “A lot of people saying, ‘Well, she looks Black, how can she pass?’ about Ruth Negga. And…that’s the point. She looks Black to other Black people (as did most people who passed back then). White people were the ones who had no clue.”

Danielle also shared a 1950s quiz from EBONY Magazine, which asked readers to guess, “Which one is negro, which one is white,” to a series of photos.

Read Deadline’s official description of the film below:

“The pic, shot in black and white, tells the story of two Black women, Irene Redfield (Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Negga), who can “pass” as white but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in late 1920s New York.

After a chance encounter, Irene reluctantly allows Clare into her home, where she ingratiates herself to Irene’s husband (André Holland) and family, and soon her larger social circle as well. Irene soon finds her once-steady existence upended by Clare, and the story becomes one about obsession, repression, and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities.”

Watch the trailer for Passing below.

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