On Tuesday, October 7th, Camp Reel Stories along with a variety of other community organizations were able to attend an advanced screening of The Hate U Give at Jack London Theater in Oakland. The Hate U Give is a film adaptation of a young adult novel written by Angie Thomas with the same title.
The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter (played by Amandla Stenberg), a black high school girl whose life is forever changed after witnessing her childhood best friend, Khalil, being shot and killed by a white police officer. Prior to Khalil’s murder, Starr is shown feeling split between two communities, afraid of appearing “too black” at her predominately white private school Williamson Prep, and criticized for acting “too white” in her hometown of Garden Heights. As news of the murder circulates throughout these communities, Starr is forced to confront the prejudices of her classmates and friends at Williamson Prep, and is encouraged to use her voice to speak for Khalil by Black Lives Matter activist April Ofrah (played by Issa Rae).
The Hate U Give is a truly incredible film that has not left my mind since I watched it. I found myself wholly engaged throughout the screening, crying and cheering along with the entire audience. This film is intense, with scenes portraying police brutality, microaggressions, and many other forms of oppression that black Americans face every day, contrasting with moments of pure joy and comedy in the lighter moments. Although the film is long with a two hour and twelve minute running time, there is never a dull moment. With a stellar cast, powerful dialogue, and a message to speak out against injustice in all forms, The Hate U Give is the best film I’ve seen this year.
The Hate U Give is an important film, not only because of the story it tells, but also the ways in which the cast and crew took steps behind the scenes to make sure that the team working on the film reflected the values of the story. The novel, “The Hate U Give” was adapted to a screenplay by Audrey Wells, who passed away one day before the film’s limited release. Audrey (a white female screenwriter) worked closely with the film’s lead Amandla Stenberg and director George Tillman Jr to make the dialogue as genuine as possible with her limited perspective. When asked about Amandla’s partnership with Audrey, Amandla said “Something that was just so amazing about Audrey is she understood that she couldn’t necessarily understand this experience… She understood that she didn’t have the experience of a black girl and she wanted to make sure that she was as authentic as possible in how she wrote the script”.
This collaboration between Audrey, Amandla and George is a great example of how Hollywood can work towards more authentic storytelling — when a person has not lived the experiences of a character they are writing, they should consult with those who have and implement changes based on feedback.
When reading more about the production of this film, I stumbled upon the information that the romantic lead of Chris was recast with K.J. Apa after a video surfaced of the original actor Kian Lawley using racial slurs. Clearly, the actions of actor Kian Lawley did not reflect the story director George Tillman Jr was trying to tell, and so the role of Chris was recast so that all members of the cast reflected the values showcased in the film. The way in which The Hate U Give held Kian accountable for the harm he did is an important step towards making the film industry a safer place for marginalized filmmakers.
At Reel Stories, we believe that when people of all marginalized groups are represented behind the scenes, their stories will be presented on the screen. In order for more movies like this to be produced, we need to support movies like The Hate U Give that reflect these values.
The Hate U Give comes out October 19th!
Written by Grace Patterson, Outreach and Community Associate