Amandla Stenberg’s latest role is a controversial one, to say the least.
Where Hands Touch stars the 18 year old Actress as Leyna, the 15-year-old daughter of a white German mother and a black father. She stars alongside George MacKay, who plays Lutz, the son of a prominent SS officer, and a member of the Hitler Youth. The two, according to a statement from Tantrum films, “They fall helplessly in love, putting their lives at risk as all around them the persecution of Jews and those deemed ‘non-pure’ slowly unfolds. Does their love stand a chance amidst violence and hatred?”
Director Amma Asante told Variety: “It has been a passion of mine to tell this story for many years — to shine a light on the existence of German children of color who were forced to grow up under Hitler’s rule, labelled as ‘Rhineland bastards.’ Against this historical backdrop, Leyna and Lutz enter a rite of passage negotiating the path to true identity in a society that has turned in on itself and is eating its own tail. Completing this film brings together everything I am as filmmaker.”
First look at #WhereHandsTouch – a beautiful project I am honored to be a part of directed by @iammaasante. "Fifteen-year-old Leyna (Stenberg), daughter of a white German mother and a black father, meets Lutz (MacKay), the son of a prominent SS officer, and a member of the Hitler Youth. 'They fall helplessly in love, putting their lives at risk as all around them the persecution of Jews and those deemed ‘non-pure’ slowly unfolds." This film isn't simply a love story, but rather a portrayal of human truth in a world of atrocious violence created by a dictator that children are forced to navigate.
Many left comments expressing their discontent and general disappointment, asking how Amandla could accept a part in a movie romanticizing Nazis.
The 18 year old Actress defended the film on Instagram in a separate post.
“This week, a First Look image of Where Hands Touch was released, & it revealed all sorts of fears on what this film will be about. My passion has been to shine a light on the existence of the children of color who were born & raised under Hitler. These children were also persecuted & my wish has been to explore how Black & Bi-racial identity was perceived & experienced under Nazi facist rule. The young girl’s experience in ‘Where Hands Touch,’ sits alongside the Jewish experience & the experience of others who were persecuted. It looks at how Germany became Nazi Germany & 'slept walked’ itself into a disgusting & murderous state that resulted in it killing its own people. Leyna’s story is told in this sad & terrifying context. My reasons for making this film sit around my concerns of the current climate but also a growing intolerance of racial & religious difference. Amandla & I teamed together to make a film that might contribute to the dialogue of how we fight this racial and religious ignorance today, along with the intolerances visited on the many other marginalized groups & intersections. With only a few lines offered to comment on when a First Look image is released, & with Leyna embarking on such large rites of passage, it is difficult to summarize. Amandla’s role in this film brings attention to an, as yet, untold story in the arena of drama cinema, to the existence of the other ‘others’ who suffered during the holocaust. This does not mean that the Jewish experience is not also key to our story. It is. When, as a 17 year old member of the Hitler Youth (compulsory since 1936), George MacKay’s character discovers what his country is & what it stands for through learning what is happening to Jews and then to Leyna as she is thrown into a camp system, he rejects the doctrine & challenges his father’s belief system. I hope that this at least clarifies concerns. I would never make a movie that glorified, glamorized or romanticized hatred & murder in any way. On the contrary, I want to explore the voices of the marginalized. By exploring the experiences of yesterday we can hopefully be better prepared when ugliness heads our way today." – @iammaasante
Amandla was also bombarded with criticism on her Tumblr page, where she continued to defend the film.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming film? Should she have not taken the part? Is it too early to judge?