During this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, several films were featured within the Black Perspectives component, one of which had audiences amazed at not only the realism of the storyline, but also by the performances of the characters, deserving of an Oscar nomination. The Hate U Give wowed audiences and is sure to make a mark on award season.
The Hate U Give provides an introspective look into the life of Starr Carter, played by actress Amandla Stenberg. Starr is an African American teenager surviving between two worlds—the neighborhood that she was reared in and the school that she attends that is in a more affluent vicinity. There are her African American friends that she hangs out with, and her white girlfriends she shares giggles and slumber parties with from time to time. Her world is full of criticism, questions, french fries and the boy she is dating—the white boy she is dating, that her father is totally oblivious to.
With intelligence and beauty on her side, you root for her from the moment the character is introduced. Starr is sent to this school to receive a better education, a head start that will give her just the ammunition she needs in order to thrive and get out of the current living situation her family is in. As the movie progresses, it becomes even more poignant when Starr witnesses first-hand the shooting death of her childhood friend Khalil, played by actor Algee Smith, at the hands of a police officer who mistakes his hair brush for a gun.
And so it begins—the film has everyone on the edge of their seats as tears sneak their way from the corners of eyes streaming down cheeks. Stenberg’s brilliant interpretation hits home and irritates that deep wound that the African American community unfortunately knows all too well. Throughout the story’s progression, slowly but surely, Starr Carter’s character transitions. The fury in her eyes, the personal anguish of reliving the night when she desperately attempted to talk Khalil’s spirit from leaving his body while he lay lifelessly in her arms after being riddled by three bullets. His blood drenched clothes and watching him take his last breath. Just ten minutes before, he planted a tender kiss upon her lips confessing his genuine romantic feelings.
All of this becomes her fuel. She is the sole witness and she must keep it all inside—until she decides to no longer do so and instead utilizes her voice in an effort to obtain justice for Khalil. Starr decides to speak up amidst death threats decorated with the street code ‘snitches get stitches’. Her pain is her triumph as she navigates and finds the strength to be her own woman in the process.
“What attracted me to this project was the amazing book by Angie Thomas, and if you have time to read a book, then I would suggest that you read that if you haven’t already. It’s so real, beautiful. It’s a personal narrative that is accessible and understandable. I saw the potential power behind that and putting it on screen… how it makes people feel and respond and breaks them down… makes them human,” said Stenberg during the red carpet press event. “I’ve never had this happen to me personally, but I understood how she used her voice and Starr’s trajectory towards activism,” the actress continued.
Faced with intimidation from people within her own community as well as outside, Starr’s life is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, and viewers get a firsthand look into how she handles the pressure. There is her mother, played by actress Regina Hall, who wants to keep Starr from the constant attention and there is her father, played by Russell Hornsby, who encourages her to speak up and fight. Of course, throughout the work, there are protests that painfully remind us of all that has already taken place throughout history and today. They capture the social angst and turmoil surrounding Khalil’s death, and the eventual fallout that goes along with it. “I was blown away by the book. I felt like this 16 year old girl used her super hero powers and was the lightness in the darkness, her dad called her Starr and she spoke up for what she believed in. She enlightened those around her. There was a strong father in the household, strong family. It has a lot of things that the audience can respond to. I want this to be a conversation starter, we need to have that with one another. I love how we deal with that in the film,” director George Tillman, Jr. shared.
A definite teaching tool, The Hate U Give is a must see for all ages. Several lessons are showcased that touch upon friendship, the strength in a positive family dynamic and self-discovery. An amazing account that will be felt for years to come.
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