The Hate U Give: How It Effects Our Future | London Film Festival

London Film Festival is going to be home of the UK premiere of George Tillman Jr's adaptation of Angie Thomas' 2017 novel The Hate U Give. 

Amandla Stenberg leads the film brilliantly as Starr Carter, growing up in Garden Heights, a fictional mostly black neighbourhood full of people struggling to make ends meet. Her parents Maverick and Lisa (Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall) send her to the mostly white, affluent Williamson Prep due to the danger surrounding the school in Garden Heights.

 Most of the beginning is prefacing her surroundings until the main event. Starr attends a party with some friends from the village and later in the evening an old friend by the name of Khalil arrives. The two of them strike up a conversation and Khalil offers to drive her home. Halfway through their journey the car is pulled over by two policemen and in entirely expected fashion, Khalil is shot and killed, simply for reaching to grab a hair brush. We then follow the inner conflict of Starr deciding if she should come forward as the witness and fight for justice or keep quiet and let the case run its course. When she decides to come forward it breaks out another war, except this time it's between the main gang in the neighbourhood, the King Lords who deal mostly with drugs as she ends up revealing Khalil's involvement as the only way he could provide for his mother.

Conflict fuels this narrative, dealing mostly with the idea of being trapped. Starr is enemy to the police as she can bring them down yet she's also enemy in her own neighbourhood for exposing the King Lords. She's enemy at school because they don't know where she comes from and yet she's enemy at home because her friends believe she's forgot her roots. She even describes herself as two versions of the same person. It's perhaps the most apparent when Starr has a conversation with her uncle who doesn't live in the village due to his wealth coming from his job as a cop. She asks him why the police don't just say "put your hands up" instead of shooting straight away without evidence, she calls his bluff when he pretends it's for safety by asking "if he's white, what do you say?" to which he solemnly responds "I say put your hands up".

Alongside the conflict, the passion is also fire and fuel for all the characters. Starr's dad is perhaps the next dominate character alongside her, he inspires them with talks of fighting for what's right. One night he lines his kids up on the grass and says "I live for my family and I die for my family" creating a symbiosis between life and death, particularly in these hate fuelled situations where it seems as though it's kill or be killed. Except for him, he means kill the oppression, not the people.

Perhaps the most soul destroying part of this narrative is hearing Khalil and Starr speak about their past and what their future holds only minutes before this fatal accident. Khalil looks her in the eye with a big smile on his face telling her "we got time". I remember reading Ray Lewis' book I Feel Like Going On a few years back where he spoke about people in his life being killed as second nature to him, it's just one of those things that happens which is almost entirely unique to those who grow up in poorer estates, that one day someone's there and the next they're gone. It's a crushing reminder of the reality we hear on the TV weekly of a new innocent life taken at the hands of gun crime. This is beautifully recognised in the funeral ceremonies never being too solemn, it feels like a real genuine celebration of life with music and movement and moments of peace followed by eruption of discussion. It's chilling to feel like this is the routine, that funerals are more common than any other event in the neighbourhood.

It did well at making comments on movements such as Black Lives Matter. There's a scene where all the white kids ditch class to "protest" which really means just they use it as their excuse to go home early. This theme was explored predominately through the character of Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter), Starr's supposed best friend at Williamson Prep. She's the one that reprimands Starr for not wanting to be part of her protest whilst simultaneously saying "Poor guy, I feel bad for his family" about the white cop that shot Khalil. On the flip side of this her boyfriend, Chris, played by Riverdale's K. J. Apa was almost like the representation of a lot of white activists, far in enough to unselfishly be involved but not enough to put themselves in danger. He wasn't shamed for this, it's just the matter of fact. When this isn't your reality jumping into a full on protest is rather daunting, especially when your life is at risk.

The entire central theme is around Tupac's THUG LIFE: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone which comes full circle by the end. Without giving it away, I will say I wasn't huge on the ending, I felt like it tied up too neatly in a way that these kinds of situations just do not.  

I think this film will hit audiences that recent films of a similar nature such as Detroit and BlacKkKlansman just miss. The book is targeted at young adults and maybe the reach to the younger generation around this topic is exactly what we need in order to not repeat the past, because quite honestly I do not know how many more innocent lives have to end before we decide enough is enough.

The Hate U Give hits UK cinemas from 22nd October 2018 - catch it early at the BFI London Film Festival by clicking HERE for ticket information.

Until next time

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