TIFF 2018: The Hate U Give Has the Potential to Empower a Generation
A teenage girl and boy who didn’t know each other were making friends in line for the 2nd screening of The Hate U Give at TIFF. “So, you already saw it?” he asked her. “Yeah, at the premiere with the cast and everything. They came out after to talk about it,” she said excitedly. This would be his first festival film. “I didn’t even know until recently you could come to this. I thought it was some snobbish thing,” he said. TIFF is a star-studded event, but it’s also the largest film festival in North America by attendance. It’s a conversation starter. Often those conversations are about what films will be major awards contenders, like last year’s The Shape of Water. Other times, conversations like the ones The Hate U Give inspires can be even more important. “If you aren’t aware of the issues, this shows you everything,” the girl explained.
I hadn’t yet seen the film, so I didn’t know until later how wise her words were. At the center of the story is an inhumane cycle of oppression that ensnares the young characters and everyone they love. A devastating incident of brutality unfolds, but George Tillman Jr. has directed the film in such a way that it does not preach. The Hate U Give somehow tackles every perspective of an all too common tragedy without being crowded or contradictory. It inspires conversation.
It also manages to never condescend. Based on Angie Thomas’ young adult novel, the film is meant for teen audiences, but that doesn’t mean playing down the horrible events. It means getting the story to the ears who will be most likely to turn the message into change. Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is a teenager caught up in a nightmare situation. After seeing her unarmed friend killed by a white police officer, she’s torn between speaking out and maintaining her privacy. Telling the truth could cause greater damage than staying silent and Starr feels pressure from all sides. Social consequences weigh just as heavily as societal ones and she is forced to weigh personal sacrifices that no one her age should ever have to make. Unfortunately, her story is not pure fiction. There are real Starr’s living this story every day and something has to change.
The Hate U Give probably will be mentioned as we near awards season. The performances are stunning and Amandla Stenberg is on the cusp of superstardom. Audrey Wells’ screenplay adaptation is spectacular and Alex Blatt and Craig Hayes worked magic in the editing booth. However, the conversations among the parents who take their kids and the teenagers who discuss the movie at their lockers will be the most impactful. There is a generation of heroes emerging, and Amandla Stenberg is the voice they need right now.
Featured Image: Amandla Stenberg stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.