The Gulf Today - Time Out - - CONTENTS | FOCUS - SAYS MICHEL COMTE

The Toronto film fes­ti­val cast a spot­light on racism and po­lice bru­tal­ity in di­rec­tor Ge­orge Tillman Jr.’s “The Hate U Give.” Ap­plauded by crit­ics and au­di­ences alike, the adap­ta­tion of the best-sell­ing young adult novel by Angie Thomas is “a timely com­men­tary in the Black Lives Mat­ter era,” said the fes­ti­val’s youth­com­mit­teethatchose­to­screen the movie.

“We are, through this film, protest­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity,” said Amand­laSten­berg­who­playsS­tarr,a teenage girl seek­ing her voice while liv­ing a dual life — grow­ing up in a tough black neigh­bor­hood while at­tend­ing a pre­dom­i­nantly white prep school in an­other part of town in hopes of a safe and bet­ter fu­ture.

“Hope­fully what it does is, make black peo­ple, black girls feel val­i­dated, feel em­pow­ered, feel strong, and stand up for their truth,” she said.

“And hope­fully it brings some light to these events, and evokes em­pa­thy in peo­ple to have real di­a­logue about it, from a real place in­stead of just un­der­stand­ing these events in a top­i­cal and some­times de­sen­si­tised man­ner.”

THE iLM OPENS WITH STARR ’S FA­THER (played by Rus­sell Hornsby) try­ing to in­still black pride in her and her sib­lings at a very young age, while also warn­ing them of po­ten­tial per­ils of be­ing black, for ex­am­ple, how to nav­i­gate a po­lice en­counter — what Hornsby de­scribed to re­porters as a chill­ing les­son for a child.

At school, al­though her class­mates adopt the slang and cloth­ing of black Amer­i­cans, she is

more cir­cum­spect about her cul­tural her­itage. “Slang makes them look cool, but it makes me look hood,” sHE sAys IN tHE iLM.

Back in her neigh­bor­hood, she Is FORCED tO lEE A wEEK­END HOusE party bro­ken up by gun­shots, which is pre­sented as an un­for­tu­nate nor­mal­ity in the com­mu­nity.

Achild­hood friend, Khalil (Al­gee Smith), of­fers to drive her home, but it all goes side­ways dur­ing a ROu­tINE tRAFiC stOP wHEN KHALIL Is sHOt DEAD By A wHItE PO­LICE OFiCER as the 17-year-old boy reaches for a hair­brush.

In­ves­ti­gat­ing­po­lice­seek­to­blame the vic­tim, and by as­so­ci­a­tion Starr, while a lo­cal gang leader presses her to keep quiet for fear of be­ing im­pli­cated, and a civil rights lawyer urges her to tes­tify be­fore a grand jury in hopes of get­ting jus­tice for Khalil.

Such killings in the United States, pub­li­cised by smart­phone and po­lice video, have given rise to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

But pros­e­cu­tions, let alone guilty ver­dicts, have proven rare.

At a press con­fer­ence, au­thor Angie Thomas said: “It is im­por­tant to speak up and speak out, es­pe­cially in mo­ments of in­jus­tice.”

But too of­ten, she ex­plained, black peo­ple in im­pov­er­ished and crime-rid­den neigh­bor­hoods in the United States do not feel safe com­ing for­ward.

“Not snitch­ing is a sur­vival tac­tic,” she said.

“There is no wit­ness pro­tec­tion for peo­ple who talk about what hap­pens in the neigh­bor­hood,” echoed An­thony Mackie, who PLAys GANG LEADER KING IN tHE iLM.

“As a com­mu­nity, as a peo­ple, as men, our job is to pro­tect women and chil­dren and in this gen­er­a­tion we have failed mis­er­ably,” he said.

“So un­til we do our job, the idea of speak­ing out about what’s hap­pen­ing in our com­mu­nity is prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble be­cause there’s no one to pro­tect you.”

THEiLM,wHICHwILLBERELEAsEDIN the­atres on Oc­to­ber 19, also stars Issa Rae, Regina Hall, Sab­rina Car­pen­ter, rap­per Com­mon, KJApa and La­mar John­son.

“HungerGames”ac­tressSten­berg was as­sailed on so­cial me­dia for not be­ing “black enough” when she was cast in the role, but de­liv­ers a stel­lar per­for­mance. “It was the iRst tIME IN My LIFE tHAt I’D HAD My black­ness ques­tioned,” she said in Toronto. “Iron­i­cally it’s some­thing tHAt StARR FACEs IN tHE iLM.”

“It’s been hard,” she ac­knowl­edged. “But I have a great sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards the place from which that comes. It’s a place of pain, it’s a re­sult of peo­ple be­ing frus­trated be­cause they are nav­i­gat­ing a colourist sys­tem at all times. And that’s painful.”

Ge­orge Tillman Jr. AMANDLA STENBERG


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