The Hate U Give
Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby
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… a vibrant, down-to-earth and unnervingly complex look at the socio-political climate.
Amandla Stenberg starring in yet another YA adaptation would normally be cause for concern, given her track record with the Munchausen nightmare of Everything Everything and the generic backwash of The Darkest Minds. However, to call this a YA adaptation immediately belittles the material. This isn’t about the younger generation raging against a fantastical tyranny; this is about all generations raging against a tyranny that is all too real.
Inspired by real-life cases of police brutality in the U.S., director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honour, Notorious) and cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr. (The Master, A Walk Among the Tombstones) give a vibrant, down-to-earth and unnervingly complex look at the socio-political climate that gave birth to those deaths.
It creates a rather comprehensive breakdown of the factors that contribute to the proclivity of deaths like that of Oscar Grant and the film’s Khalil: the community who are taught as children not to give police an excuse to open fire; the criminals whose rule of ‘no snitching’ maintains the existence of a threat much closer to home; the police who are trained to anticipate dozens of possibilities for any situation, primarily based on racial assumptions; and the culture-appropriating white population whose idea of being an ally is self-serving and counter-productive. All anchored by Stenberg as a high schooler who has enough to worry about trying to fit in at a predominantly-white school.
2018 served as a highly successful year for black American cinema, from the absurdist satire of Sorry to Bother You to the blockbuster cultural melange of Black Panther. While those films dealt with the underlying cultural factors in the background of events like those in this feature, the story presented here is a more immediate and disquieting depiction of the unfortunately common result of those factors.
At once personal and communal, the vision of reality here serves as both a snapshot of the Black Lives Matter movement from the inside out and an opportunity for the well-meaning white liberal members of the audience to check themselves. It’s a message of love, hope and forgiveness, but one tempered with the knowledge that some things can’t be fixed, least of all overnight, but an effort must be made. Effort made from a point of real understanding, not just face-saving lip service. Hate only grows more hate, and it has caused enough damage already.