+M Foundation 3 MINS READ August 10th, 2023

The mask you live in

Boys and students

The mask you live in

Filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 2015 documentary, ‘The Mask You Live In’, is a powerful and thought provoking challenge to the definition of masculinity in the U.S. In it’s opening scene, the film displays George Orwell’s quote “He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it…” 

One part of the film focuses on Oakland-based educator Ashanti Branch, founder of a youth-advocacy group called The Ever Forward Club who supports young African-American and Latino boys by helping them revise their ideas about masculinity. Branch assembles a group of eight boys in what looks like a library and hands out a piece of paper to each of the boys which he tells them represents the mask that they put on each day to come to school. He asks them to write words to express the image and attributes that the masks presents to others every day; the results include “cool” and “funny”. He then asks them to turn the mask over and write on the other side the feelings that they are pressured to hide each day. The results are raw – “anger” and “pain” being the most common. It’s an emotional scene which causes Branch to ask the boys to look beyond the masks that their friends are wearing and to enquire about how they are really coping and what support they can give to each other.  

View the trailer below or visit the Representation Project website.