It would be a mistake to think you could do anything after seeing The Hate U Give— going to a 7pm show and then carrying on with your plans for the night. After the advanced screening of the film at the Hop this Friday, hosted by Shamell Bell, a consultant for both the movie and the book on which it was based, my friend and I tried to talk but ended up going home to sit in silence and reflect. This movie will definitely put elements of your life (especially being at Dartmouth) into perspective, and for me, it forced me to recognize the ways I am either complicit or fail to act as much as I could for movements I believe I support.
The Hate U Give, a reference to Tupac’s definition of THUG LIFE, is based off a young adult bestseller by Angie Thomas. Starr Carter, played by Amandla Stenberg, is a teenager in Garden Heights, a mostly black, impoverished neighborhood, but attends Williamson, a private school in the wealthier white neighboring town. After witnessing the police shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, in a traffic stop, Starr must face the ramifications of speaking out against injustice, both in her neighborhood and in Williamson. The movie follows Starr’s participation in the trial, the media, and protests and the impact on her relationships and her community.
The movie invokes a full-body visceral reaction—tears, anxiety, maybe even shock—but the actors also offer moments of witty and skillful comedy that grabbed the whole theater at the screening. In some, if not most of the scenes, I’d find myself forgetting that this was technically acting, because the movie is so deeply involved, but at the same time, no one’s really acting— this is a cinematic articulation of reality more than a fictitious movie. Just because this movie might be hard to watch, or not fun to watch, you shouldn’t have reservations about seeing it. This advanced screening was one of the most worthwhile shows I’ve seen at Dartmouth, and despite its heaviness, the movie remains empowering and even optimistic. Coupled with Shamell Bell’s discussion, I left feeling activated rather than paralyzed about the amount of work to be done. The movie also reminded me of the power of art in politics—art is not just helpful in articulating political movements but necessary—and a movie like this scales down a national conversation about police brutality and systemic injustice to the levels it is experienced and lived: in individuals, in families, in schools. This of course points to a bigger issue about who must constantly re-justify their humanity and their personhood through art, and why a film like this is necessary, but The Hate U Give nonetheless awed me with its depth, complexity, and unflinching lens.