The Hate you Give – Film Review by Frank L
Directed by George Tillman jr.
Writers: Audrey Wells (screenplay by), Angie Thomas (based upon the novel by)
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Angie Thomas which was published in February 2017 and has been in the New York Times best seller list ever since. At its core is the discriminatory way the African American community are treated by the police in the United States. In recent times this discrimination has led to the creation of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The film begins with Maverick Carter (Russell Hornsby), in Garden Heights, a predominantly black district, giving his young family, including his nine-year-old daughter Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a guide on how to behave when they meet the police, and in particular when stopped in a car. One of the essential things to do immediately is to place your hands, fingers stretched, on the dashboard. He drums these rules into his kids. In his neighbourhood, Maverick is doing well as he runs a thriving small grocery store. It provides the Carters with a decent standard of living. Although he had a chequered past, Maverick has the street smarts to know how to stay clear of the drug dealers and interconnected crime gangs who are never far away.
Maverick and his wife Lisa (Regina Hall) have sent Starr to High School in nearby Williamson, where her schoolmates are all white, so as to try to ensure that she gets the best possible education. Starr, therefore, finds herself living in two different communities, her own domestic environment which is entirely African American while her school environment is entirely white. She is displaced in both settings to varying degrees. This inevitably creates difficulties which include her school boyfriend Chris (K.J. Apa) who is white. He has to wise up rapidly to the fact that Starr comes from a different world. This displacement also creates challenges for her friendships with her former school friends. In particular at an African American party she meets Khalil (Algee Smith) the guy that she first had a crush on. He is now involved with the drug world. However, he is a charming guy, there is still a spark between Starr and him. As a serious fight breaks out at the party he offers her a lift. They are stopped by a single cop. Starr knows all about placing her hands on the dashboard. Khalil does not. In the confrontation with the cop he, unarmed, is shot dead.
The story then shows the partial manner in which the police investigate the killing, the issues that Starr has in testifying as to what happened because of Khalil’s dabbling on the wrong side of the law, the actions of the main drug dealers who does not want his identity revealed and the reaction of some of her classmates to the killing. Tillman tries to show the diverse elements of the prejudice and the systemic elements that are stacked against Starr in particular and the African American community in general. He shows how the system of law enforcement operates differently for the African Americans than the whites.
This is a serious attempt to address the obstacles that African Americans face when one of their members is shot by the police. It shows the dangers in stereotyping racially a whole community. The film seeks to address the complications of American society by having a black police officer and Starr having a white boyfriend which do happen in reality but not nearly often enough. The film also shows the inherent unofficial systems which kick into police procedures where a police officer is accused of wrongdoing. The instinct of the police force is to protect the police officer.
The characters are delineated for the most part in three dimensions so the overall sense of the film is to throw light on some of the many contributing factors that have led to the African American community to have created the Black Lives Matter movement. It raises starkly the issue of who polices the police. This is an issue which faces every democratic society. If the film encourages debate on the particular issue as described and/or the wider issue of the investigation of the police for their failings in general it will have been of service.