“What Is The Emotional Legacy Of A Life Lived In Hiding?” Rebecca Hall Honours Her Family’s History In Her New Film Passing

“What Is The Emotional Legacy Of A Life Lived In Hiding?” Rebecca Hall Honours Her Family’s History In Her New Film Passing

Vogue UK

Rebecca Hall

Molly Cranna

For her directorial debut, the British actor brings to life the novel that helped unlock the meaning of her family’s heritage.

The elucidation of a family’s history, like the history of a nation, is never straightforward or simple. The truth is stated baldly and then denied, hedged or partially retracted. The same stories somehow become less and less clear with each repetition. Clarity is elusive, and perhaps its pursuit is even unkind – why probe something so delicate as the past? And when it comes to questions of race, what answers could ever be satisfying?

My mother, Maria Ewing, was born in Detroit in 1950. Her father worked as an engineer at McLouth Steel in the city, and was also an amateur painter and musician. It was in part his love of music that propelled her to leave home at 18 and, in an improbably rapid fashion, transform herself into an international opera star. My father, Peter Hall, was born in Suffolk, the child of the local stationmaster. He went on to found the Royal Shakespeare Company and forge his way as one of the most significant British theatre directors of the late 20th century. Both products of working-class backgrounds, my parents each became part of a global cultural elite, and both of them thoroughly reinvented themselves in order to do it.

Growing up with my mother – now the former Lady Hall – in the English countryside, there was always some mystery around her background. Within the opera community, she was spoken about as “exotic”. When I looked at my mother, I always, my whole life, thought she looked Black. But there was no factual basis for that, and it was a tricky subject. When I asked questions such as, “Your father, maybe he was African American? Was he Native American? Do you know anything?” she just couldn’t answer with any degree of certainty. Not wouldn’t – she couldn’t. She simply didn’t have any hard information. She knew that things were hidden, that she didn’t know any of his family members, that she just didn’t understand certain things. To an extent, I think she had accepted a degree of vagueness about her own identity. Maybe, for her, that vagueness, that mystery, was simply part of her lineage, something that she had no choice but to accept. And as someone who lived in circumstances that were quite distant from those she grew up in, maybe that vagueness was even useful, an infinitely pliable substance out of which to build a bridge between her old life and her new one…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,