(Release Info London schedule; October 20th, 2018, Cineworld, 5 - 6 Leicester Square, 20:45)
"The Hate U Give"
Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is constantly switching between two worlds; the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what's right.
Sixteen-year old Starr Carter lives in 'Garden Heights', a working-class community with her close-knit family. Her father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby), is a reformed ex-gang member who grew up in 'Garden Heights' and once served time in prison. Now, a family man and valued member of the community, Maverick owns the community grocery store. Starr’s mother, Lisa (Regina Hall), a nurse, was also reared in 'Garden Heights', in a family that aspired more for its children through education, just as she does for her own. Half-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson) and younger brother Sekani (TJ Wright) complete the family. Dismayed by the academic achievements of schools in their community, and wanting to give their children better opportunities, Lisa and Maverick enroll Starr and her siblings in 'Williamson Prep School', a predominantly white school about forty minutes away. In 'Garden Heights', Starr is 'Starr Version One'. She's comfortable speaking the slang vernacular of her community, enjoys hip hop without feeling self-conscious, but fears being seen as acting white.
At 'Williamson', Starr becomes 'Starr Version Two'. There, she's constantly on guard not to appear or act too hood. She refrains from speaking slang, even if the white kids do, her two best friends Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) and Maya (Megan Lawless) are not black, and her boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa) is white. Everything changes when Starr witnesses the shooting death of her childhood best friend, Khalil at the hands of a police officer during a traffic stop. As the sole witness, Starr must choose between speaking up for Khalil, or remaining silent. Telling the truth could also endanger herself and her family by implicating King (Anthony Mackie), 'Garden Heights' drug lord who Khalil worked for. And, she worries about 'The Williamson Community' connecting her to Khalil’s death, and what they will think. As her community cries out for justice for Khalil, and word spreads about Starr’s involvement, Starr finds herself navigating an increasingly volatile environment. Starr begins a journey of self-discovery, one that will reveal powerful truths and realizations about herself and, where her true community lies.
The script opens with Starr’s father, Maverick giving his children 'The Talk', an instructional time-bound lesson black parents use to protect their children from the danger police can pose to their safety. The key message is know your rights. Maverick overcame his life as a drug dealer, gang member and convict to become a loving family man and a positive presence in the community. Mav prepares his children for the world by teaching them about their worth, and their rights. He's both protective and supportiv. He's very loving and sweet to his daughter, but he's also stern because he realizes she has the potential for greatness, and he expects nothing less. You’re seeing a black father have the conversation to make sure that his kids are safe. That's what's going to be good about this movie; to allow people to understand that some people’s circumstance and environments are not the same as yours. Anything can happen when your child leaves the house. It’s your responsibility as a parent to have that talk. Rehearsing the opening scene is a particularly emotional and painful experience. Audiences are going to bear witness to a father saying to his children; 'you better heed what I’m telling you because it can save your life'.
Code switching can be defined as the practice of changing one’s behavior to suit different environments. For 'The African American Community', code switching is yet another survival tactic that often takes an emotional toll. "The Hate U Give" is about Starr’s awakening, triggered by Khalil’s tragic death. Tragedy forces Starr to realize who she's meant to be. This is what the story becomes, it’s about her journey of being a full person. Being the sole witness to Khalil’s death, Starr is thrust into a situation that seems insurmountable. It challenges her whole life, it challenges her whole perspective, it challenges her identity, as she has to figure out if she has the strength to speak up for him and what she believes in. It takes time for her to reach a place of strength where she feels comfortable to use her voice. But it's because she thinks deeply about her actions, and her priorities are her family, her friends and her community. It's also there that she finds her strength and resolve. The early lessons from Mav has given her a solid foundation from which to start her journey of self-discovery, to recite 'The Black Panther Ten Points Program', and about 'Malcolm X', Huey Newton and Martin Luther King, and so Starr has an understanding of who she's within the historical context of America. Starr struggles to reconcile her life in 'Garden Heights' with her life in 'Williamson'.
Lawyer and community activist, April Ofrah (Issa Rae), also plays a pivotal role in the final phase of Starr’s growth. April wants justice and is willing to go to the Carter home and ask them to put Starr on television, and persuade her to testify for the grand jury. The bravery that requires on both ends is admirable. Initially suspicious of April’s motives, Starr grows to appreciate what's being offered. April recognizes how important Starr's voice is, and pushes Starr to utilize it as best she can. It's not until Starr realizes that she does need to use her voice that April and Starr develop a camaraderie, and April gives Starr the tools she needs in order to speak. The protest scene is the culmination of the journey Starr takes in finding her voice. It's the moment where Starr stands up for what she believes in, and stands in the authenticity of where she comes from.
Starr’s mother, Lisa is someone who showed early promise before it was derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. Now, she's a devoted parent who wants to create a better future for her children. She doesn’t want Starr to make the same mistakes she did, or for her sons to get involved in the lifestyle Maverick had. Lisa wants her children to break the cycle that often sabotages the futures of children from communities like 'Garden Heights'. And so, she and Maverick make the financial sacrifice to send them to 'Williamson'. It’s about trying to put them in the environment where they've the best opportunity to go to college, and so they've a fighting chance in the world with other kids who've access to more information and better schooling. Like Starr, Seven is also split between two worlds; the loving family of the Carter household, and the chaotic home Iesha shares with King, the local drug lord. Seven benefits from living with Maverick and Lisa; he becomes the first to break the cycle by graduating 'Williamson' and eligible for college, by the end of the film. The Carter parents are a positive model of black parenting. Mav and Lisa instill such morals into their children. It's awesome to see Mav's past and see where he comes from, where he's now and, the type of father that he's.
The damages we do to one another gets passed on from generation to generation. If we don’t stop hurting one another, future generations are going to have the same problems. This movie is a metaphor for that. Sekani embodies this idea in the film. He's the infant Tupac is talking about. He sees the police take down his dad. He’s seeing gang-members shoot to scare Starr from going to the grand jury. The sequence with Sekani and the gun gets to the heart of the issue. Carlos (Common), Starr’s uncle is a black police officer, which within this story becomes a real challenge, as it must be for some real-life black police officers who work in the community. He offers Starr a police’s perspective on Khalil’s death and asks her to trust the system. However, Carlos is forced to admit some hard truths himself about his own bias. Carlos believes that he’s taught a certain amount of things about how the police conduct themselves but also he admits himself in one particular scene in the movie, that he sees race in the wrong way as well. Through Carlos character the film explores what happens when we've internalized racism, and how we police ourselves and contribute to bias.
King is 'Garden Heights’ resident drug lord. He and Mav were childhood buddies. They're responsible for the drug game in the neighborhood before they got pinched. Mav goes to prison. King did what he was supposed to do to make their relationship right, but after Mav got out, he becomes his own man and King stays in the game. That’s where the tension comes in. King and his boys are telling Starr to stay quiet because snitches get stitches. But this little girl has more strength than any man or adult in the community because she stood up and spoke out. Khalil is not in the movie for long and, within that time, you've to fall in love with him and feel Starr falling in love. You also have to realize that while he has a lot of responsibility taking care of his mom and his grandma, that he's still a kid. Khalil is central to the story because not only does he trigger Starr’s emotional and political growth, his death also causes her friends to realize that they may not be speaking up for injustice as much as they could be. His tragic death allows Starr to discover her true allies.
Chris, Starr's boyfriend, is someone who has never really looked at race because he comes from an upper-class, very rich family. He goes to private school in 'Williamson'. He’s dating a young 'African American' woman, but he doesn’t know what it’s like for her to grow up with the racism, and living in the inner city. Despite the difference in their backgrounds, Chris is willing to try and bridge the gap. Chris ends up getting to know Starr when she opens up her world to her. At the start he didn’t really understand racism. He understood it in an intellectual way, but Starr opened his eyes. The Carter family faces a lot of challenges, but, what remains through all of that's the deepest sense of love, of friendship, of strength found in each other.
In the early months of 2016, publishing houses found themselves in a bidding war for the unpublished manuscript of first-time author, Angie Thomas. Entitled "The Hate U Give", the story focused on Starr Carter, sole witness to the death of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer. The coming of age story features an 'African American' teenager who lives in the working-class community of 'Garden Heights', but who travels 45 minutes to attend a private prep school in the prosperous community of 'Williamson'. The shooting death of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California on January 1, 2009 at the hands of a 'BART' police officer made headlines all across the country. Although Grant’s death took place hundreds of miles away, it triggers conversations in Starr’s dominantly black neighborhood and her majority white private prep school. The themes around 'The African American' family dynamic, self-identity and being black are particularly strong and not something explored a lot in film. Thie film explore a fresh take on these issues from a young person’s perspective. Starr and Khalil have to deal with a situation much like Oscar’s. It's about a individual who's searching for identity, who finds her voice and finds out who she becomes, against a background of police brutality and racism. It's critically important to understand Starr’s journey from a young girl who witnessed a horrible tragedy to a young woman willing to stand up for the things she believes in.
“The Hate U Give" connects the fictional world of the movie to the long line of high profile police shootings of young black people that have sparked protests and gained national attention across the US in recent years. The film creates a dialogue about important issues about race, social justice, and identity in order to move towards peace and chang. We've to continue the dialogue about our differences. We all have biases within us. When you've a one-dimensional, self-centered approach to life, it does not allow you to understand how your actions and words can impact others. The film encourages people to have more empathy in everything we say and do. It’s important to be yourself, to stand up, to not be afraid to speak the truth and be heard. Your voice can make a difference. Maybe not at that exact moment, but down the line, and that’s what "The Hate U Give" stands for.