No time was wasted on small talk on the red carpet for the Washington screening of “The Hate U Give.” Instead of fashion or tabloid fodder, the cast and crew of the much-anticipated film delved into timely and politically charged conversations on gun violence, police brutality and the upcoming midterm elections.
The event, held at National Geographic’s headquarters, felt more Capitol Hill than “Access Hollywood,” from the nuanced discussions to the surprise political cameos (hi, Sen. Mark Warner!).
“There are a lot of issues that are tackled within the film and a huge one, of course, is gun violence,” actress, activist and filmmaker Amandla Stenberg told The Post. Stenberg plays Starr Carter in the film, which is an adaptation of Angie Thomas’s best-selling young adult novel about a young girl who witnesses the unlawful murder of her friend by a police officer. “I hope the film inspires nuanced talks about gun violence and what the world would look like with less guns. I also hope it sparks discussions on the empowerment of women, young black men and people of color.”
Galvanizing youth to use their voice amid traumatic events and harmful headlines was one of the reasons Stenberg was initially drawn to play Carter. The actress, who first broke out on the big screen in 2012 as Rue in the hit film “The Hunger Games,” felt a personal connection to the character and it’s “fresh and authentic” portrayal of being a woman of color.
Like Starr, Stenberg “grew up in an environment that was predominantly black and attended a school across town that was predominantly white and privileged,” and had to navigate the difficulty of code-switching firsthand, she said. Over time, she gradually learned she “didn’t have to compartmentalize herself to be a valid human being.”
Director George Tillman Jr. also hopes the film will speak to a wide range of audiences and experiences.
“I made this movie with African Americans in mind, but I believe when you’re authentic to yourself and authentic to your culture, it makes the message universal for everybody,” he said in a red-carpet interview. “Everybody knows what it’s like to love, to have lost, to have a family.”
In a post-screening discussion of the film, he added that “we must give love to each other, we must look after one another . . . We have to see outside of our own culture, our own environment, and recognize that other people exist and they have their own obstacles.”
And Tillman said he hopes that the issues addressed in the film will stick with movie fans all the way to the polls: “I hope it inspires people to want make a change, use their voice, and get out and vote.”