I had a chance to see an advanced screening of “The Hate U Give” this past weekend, and I’ve been encouraging everyone I know to see it ever since. The film opened everywhere Oct. 19.
“The Hate U Give” (based on the novel) follows Starr Carter, a high school senior who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend, Kahlil, at the hands of a white police officer. I was privileged enough to have read the book last year, and the film’s director, George Tillman Jr., did a great job of keeping the film adaptation true to the novel.
The film’s narrative is what makes it unique, as it’s told from the witness’ perspective, which in this case is our protagonist, Starr. Many of this film’s predecessors, such as “Fruitvale Station,” however, is told from the perspective of the victim, usually chronicling the moments leading up to their death.
Starr’s upbringing and social compass are what drives her throughout the film. The film’s opening scene, for example, is her father explaining how to conduct yourself during a routine traffic stop.
This scene resonated with me deeply, not only because I’ve had similar conversations with my parents, but because people of color are seen as inherently violent and criminal. This negative and, often, inaccurate perception of us is usually why simple routine traffic stops sometimes end tragically.
That said, “The Hate U Give” also made me think of W.E.B DuBois’s theory of double consciousness – the idea that your identity is divided into several parts – as Starr is constantly switching between her underserved, mostly black neighborhood and her upscale, mostly white prep school personas. As you would imagine, this creates tension as she faces pressure from every side.
All in all, this film is one of the best I’ve seen all year, and is a masterclass in “art-ivism,” a term used to describe art with a message related to social justice issues. Films like these are important because they can spark a productive dialogue about racial tensions in America.