Actress Amandla Stenberg defended her decision to star in the upcoming film “Where Hands Touch” as she spoke about the movie in a new interview with Variety.
The 19-year-old, who stars as a biracial young woman who was alive to witness the Holocaust, insisted filmmaker Amma Asante had a specific message to send. The film was previously slammed for “romanticizing Nazis.”
Stenberg explained of the film, which is set to make its debut at this year’s TIFF, “I think something that [Asante] is the most fascinated by and thinks is the most profound is the intersection of identity and how it’s changed by our environments and our governments and by our peers and our families, and that was her intention with ‘Where Hands Touch’.
“She spent time writing over the past 12 years and it’s her baby and her passion project… She always does what she does with a deep and open heart towards how she can portray identity and how through portraying identity throughout history, how she can draw comparisons and hopefully teach lessons about what’s happening now.
“We lack a range of the experience of black people throughout history, let alone a story about someone who is biracial.”
Stenberg continued: “People don’t really know that biracial children existed then. These biracial children were the children of French soldiers and German women who had fallen in love during World War I.”
She described her character Leyna as someone who “is walking a very dangerous tightrope.”
“She is not living the Jewish experience. She is experiencing racism and persecution, which ends up leading to her being sent to a concentration camp where she lives an experience parallel to that of Romani people or disabled people or mentally ill people or outcasts — those who were not Jewish and were not sent to extermination camps, but were persecuted and forced to work… that’s where those biracial children were sent at that time.”
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Amandla Stenberg is hopeful about the change she’s witnessing in Hollywood, but she doesn't want you to put a label on her: “I’m only one person and don’t want to claim to be any sort of savior or representation of all of black womanhood, which I think the white media has a tendency to oversimplify, when it’s really a complicated experience." Link in bio for full interview. (📷: @peggysirota)
“I think it’s challenging for people to conceive of a story about the Holocaust that is not centred around the Jewish experience but the experience of someone else. But I think what the movie does really beautifully is it demonstrates what happens with these tricky intersections of identity and how we still continue to be human and love and be loved, despite that.”
During our TIFF 2018 interview with co-stars Abbie Cornish, George MacKay and director Amma Asante, they expressed their disagreement with critics after some said that the film “romanticizes Nazis.”
“The people that were terrified of this story and [that] it would be romanticizing an abhorrent group of people. It’s ironic that their form of propaganda in a film like this, that does something that’s so completely so opposite and thankfully people coming out and saying that this film does the very opposite,” Asante says. “Language was used to dehumanize the Jews, language was used to create propaganda against them to tell society that they were something they’re not. We just have to be very careful with how we use language and how we use communication today.”
“You can’t make a judgement on something that you haven’t seen,” MacKay adds. “This isn’t a film at all that romanticizes the Nazi regime. But I think that what the film looks at is the brand of hatred of terror and they are human beings we are all human beings. Apathy can be as strong as a constructive sort of action. That’s what I think is fascinating about this story.”