TORONTO (Reuters) – New movie “The Hate U Give” has won attention for its unflinching spotlight on the police shootings of black men that have roiled the United States in recent years, but its filmmakers say the aim is much wider.
The movie tells the story of a black teenager, Starr, who attends an elite, mostly white, school but whose life is rattled when she witnesses the killing of her childhood best friend by a white police officer during a traffic stop.
Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg, must grapple with being at the center of racial tension following her friend’s death while also dealing with gang activity in her neighborhood.
George Tillman Jr., the movie’s director, said the goal of the film was to confront all the complex issues and conversations surrounding racial injustice that have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Hopefully the idea is to inspire and create dialogue,” he said at a press conference on Saturday at the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie had its world premiere.
“The Hate U Give” has won warm reviews and is the second film at the Toronto festival, along with “Monsters and Men,” to focus on police brutality.
The movie strides with “absorbing, intelligent certainty through the desperately dangerous, uneven terrain of racially divided America,” Hollywood trade publication Variety said in its review.
Stenberg said the film touches on racism in many different forms and that the character of Starr was more nuanced than some other depictions of young black women in film.
“She’s really multidimensional and she’s really black and we don’t often get both of those qualities in on-screen narratives,” Stenberg said.
She said she hoped the film “makes black people, black girls feel validated, feel empowered, feel strong and stand in their power and their truth.”
“Hopefully we can have real dialogue about it from a real place,” she said.
“The Hate U Give,” which also stars Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Russell Hornsby, goes on release in North America on Oct. 19.
Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Paul Simao