- The Color of Friendship (2000 film)
The Color of Friendship Distributed by Disney Channel Directed by Kevin Hooks Produced by Kevin Hooks
Written by Paris Qualles Starring Lindsey Haun
Music by Stanley Clarke Cinematography David Herrington Language English Release date February 5, 2000 Running time 87 minutes
The Color of Friendship is a 2000 television film based on actual events about the friendship between two girls; Mahree & Piper, one from the United States and the other from apartheid South Africa, who learn about tolerance and friendship. The film was directed by Kevin Hooks, based on a script by Paris Qualles, and stars Lindsey Haun and Shadia Simmons.
Set in 1977, Mahree Bok (Lindsey Haun) is a white South African who lives in a mansion with her parents and little brother. They comfortably benefit from the system of apartheid without questioning its morality; Mahree's father, Pieter Bok, is a South African policeman who cannot hide his joy when Steve Biko (a black South African man fighting against apartheid) is caught by the South African authorities.
They also have a black maid, Flora (Melanie Nicholls-King), whom Mahree, in her racial unawareness, considers her best friend, not realizing that Flora is not satisfied with her life under apartheid. It is from Flora that Mahree hears about the weaver bird and its communal nest-building, which is used as a metaphor for the possibility of racial harmony that Mahree does not understand at the time.
Piper Dellums (Shadia Simmons) is a black girl who lives in Washington, D.C. with her father, Congressman Ron Dellums (Carl Lumbly), an outspoken opponent of the South African apartheid system and the oppression of black South Africans, her mother Roscoe Dellums (Penny Johnson) and two younger twin brothers Brandy (Anthony Burnett) and Erik (Erron Jackson). Piper is eager to play host to an African exchange student, who she assumes will be black; Mahree is likewise excited about spending a semester in America, where she assumes her host family will be white.
Their assumptions are not corrected until Piper and her mother meet Mahree at the airport and bring her home. They try to be welcoming despite their surprise, but Mahree reacts with horror bordering on panic, locking herself in Piper's bedroom and refusing to come out. Only the prospect of having to admit to her parents that the exchange program was a bad idea prevents her from going home.
Meanwhile, Piper is bitterly disappointed and disillusioned, and her father thinks the situation of having a racist white South African stay at their house is like "being a Jew and having the Gestapo over." Eventually, Piper picks the lock on the door to bring Mahree some fries and a chocolate shake. While in the room, she lets Mahree know how angry she is, which gives Mahree her first notion of how offensive her behavior has been.
Mahree eventually decides to stay and in time Congressman Dellums gets used to the idea of Mahree staying. During her stay, Mahree sees people of different races getting along and realizes how much she and Piper have in common. The two become good friends. The two of them continue on to having a wonderful time at the mall, trying on different clothes and such.
Mahree is also forced to overcome her own inclination to see her host family as servants and strange black people as threatening, and learns to live among them day to day. However, she still refuses to admit that the system in her own country is oppressive and wrong, or that her own family has a hand in perpetuating it.
When Steve Biko, an African working for equality in South Africa, is killed by South African police, there are mass protests around the world, including at the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. Embassy diplomats come to the Dellumses' house while Mr. Dellums is at work and take Mahree with the intention of sending her back to South Africa, presumably to prevent her seeing the protests and rallying against the South African government.
In response, Congressman Dellums goes to the South African embassy threatening to announce to the press that the embassy kidnapped Mahree from her host family, and successfully gets her back. Mahree expects everything to be back to normal after this incident, not realizing the significance of Biko's killing or what it means to Piper.
The two have a fight about whether Mahree has really changed at all, and Mahree finally sees the connection between her experiences in America and the situation in South Africa. When she returns home at the end of the school semester and is greeted by her family, she shows Flora a freedom flag sewn inside her coat, signifying her decision to side with the black liberation movement.
An epilogue-like scene at the end of the movie shows Mahree with the Dellumses at an African pride event back in America. Ron Dellums delivers a speech that includes the weaver-bird story, as told to him by "a new friend from South Africa."
The weaver bird story is about a bird who makes nests all throughout the trees of South Africa. In these nest families of all different colored birds care for each other and took care of each other, even though they had no relation. This story was told by Flora to Mahree, who then passed on the story to Mr. Dellums.
The film was based on a short story called "Simunye" written by the real-life Piper Dellums about a South African girl named Carrie coming to stay with her family. Dellums writes that she lost touch with Carrie after she returned to South Africa and does not know what happened to her. In "Simunye", Piper speculates that Carrie may have been murdered for her anti-racist views.
Actor Erik Dellums, Ron Dellums's son and Piper's brother, appears in a small role.
- The movie is set in 1977, but the first shot of the movie shows the Washington Monument with the scaffolding used for its renovation in 2000.
- In the final scene when Mahree returns to the farm, the car arriving at the farmhouse has the newer, yellow number plates. During the 1970s South African vehicle number plates were white text on a black background. Transvaal province was the first to use the new black on yellow plates in 1978.
- The light switches on the walls throughout the Dellums' home are all "Decora" rocker-style versus the classic toggle style, despite rocker wall switches being very uncommon for home installation during the time period of the movie.
- Mahree's home in South Africa appears to be next to an ocean, while Dundee, South Africa, located in KwaZulu-Natal where she is supposedly from, is not near the ocean.
TV and VHS Release
The movie was met with overwhelming praise, and was played on the Disney Channel several times throughout 2000 and 2001. After this, the channel stopped airing the movie for unknown reasons. However, beginning in 2006, Disney Channel began airing the movie annually in early February, to correlate with Black History Month. Then, is mostly played every year during Black History Month A VHS was released late in 2000, and included the film, as well as the music video for "Galaxy is Ours" from Zenon: The Zequel. This has been long out of circulation, and Disney Channel rarely airs or sells DCOMS from before 2004.
- NAACP Image Award
- Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special
- WGA Award
- Children's Script Category, Paris Qualles
- Young Artist Awards
- Best Performance in a TV Movie (Drama) - Leading Young Actress, Shadia Simmons
- DGA Award
- Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs, Kevin Hooks
- Young Artist Awards
- Best Family TV Movie/Pilot/Mini-Series - Cable
- Best Performance in a TV Movie (Drama) - Leading Young Actress, Lindsey Haun
Disney Channel Original Movies 1990sNorthern Lights (1997) · Under Wraps (1997) · You Lucky Dog (1998) · Brink! (1998) · Halloweentown (1998) · Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999) · Can of Worms (1999) · The Thirteenth Year (1999) · Smart House (1999) · Johnny Tsunami (1999) · Genius (1999) · Don't Look Under the Bed (1999) · Horse Sense (1999) 2000sUp, Up, and Away (2000) · The Color of Friendship (2000) · Alley Cats Strike (2000) · Rip Girls (2000) · Miracle in Lane 2 (2000) · Stepsister from Planet Weird (2000) · Ready to Run (2000) · Quints (2000) · The Other Me (2000) · Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire (2000) · Phantom of the Megaplex (2000) · The Ultimate Christmas Present (2000) · Zenon: The Zequel (2001) · Motocrossed (2001) · The Luck of the Irish (2001) · Hounded (2001) · Jett Jackson: The Movie (2001) · The Jennie Project (2001) · Jumping Ship (2001) · The Poof Point (2001) · Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge (2001) · 'Twas the Night (2001) · Double Teamed (2002) · Cadet Kelly (2002) · Tru Confessions (2002) · Get a Clue (2002) · Gotta Kick It Up! (2002) · A Ring of Endless Light (2002) · The Scream Team (2002) · You Wish! (2003) · Right on Track (2003) · The Even Stevens Movie (2003) · Eddie's Million Dollar Cook-Off (2003) · The Cheetah Girls (2003) · Full-Court Miracle (2003) · Pixel Perfect (2004) · Going to the Mat (2004) · Zenon: Z3 (2004) · Stuck in the Suburbs (2004) · Tiger Cruise (2004) · Halloweentown High (2004) · Now You See It... (2005) · Buffalo Dreams (2005) · Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama (2005) · Go Figure (2005) · Life Is Ruff (2005) · The Proud Family Movie (2005) · Twitches (2005) · High School Musical (2006) · Cow Belles (2006) · Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006) · Read It and Weep (2006) · The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006) · Return to Halloweentown (2006) · Jump In! (2007) · Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board (2007) · High School Musical 2 (2007) · Twitches Too (2007) · Minutemen (2008) · Camp Rock (2008) · The Cheetah Girls: One World (2008) · Dadnapped (2009) · Hatching Pete (2009) · Princess Protection Program (2009) · Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie (2009) 2010sStarstruck (2010) · Den Brother (2010) · Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (2010) · Avalon High (2010) · The Suite Life Movie (2011) · Lemonade Mouth (2011) · Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure (2011) · Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011) · Geek Charming (2011) UpcomingGood Luck Charlie, It's Christmas! (2011) Films directed by Kevin Hooks 1980sRoots: The Gift (1988) 1990s 2000sThe Color of Friendship (2000)
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