Amandla Stenberg Responds to Criticism for Playing a Nazi’s Love Interest in Latest Film Role

Amandla Stenberg’s latest project hasn’t hit theaters yet, and it’s already stirring up a fair amount of controversy. The film Where Hands Touch, for which Stenberg had to shave her head, is an interracial love story set in Nazi Germany. Stenberg plays Lenya, a 16-year-old biracial German who is sent to a concentration camp as her boyfriend, 17-year-old Lutz, serves as a member of the Hitler Youth despite his misgivings.

Where Hands Touch

Understandably, this isn’t exactly going over well. As outcry grew the film’s writer and director Amma Asante, released a statement to Indiewire explaining her thought process behind the film.

“This week, a First Look image of the film I have made starring Amandla Stenberg was released, and it revealed all sorts of concerns, questions and worries with fears on what this film will be about. My passion has been to shine a light on the existence of the children of colour who were born and raised under Hitler. These children were also persecuted and my wish has been to explore how Black and Bi-racial identity was perceived and experienced under Nazi facist rule. The young girl’s experience in ‘Where Hands Touch,’ sits alongside the Jewish experience and the experience of others who were persecuted. It looks at how Germany became Nazi Germany and ‘slept walked’ itself into a disgusting and murderous state that resulted in it killing its own people and those of other countries.

Leyna’s story (Amandla Stenberg) is told in this sad and terrifying context. My reasons for making this film sit around my concerns of the current climate but also a continued and growing intolerance of racial and religious difference, that we all have sensed for many years and which is becoming even worse now. As a filmmaker, my wish is to center on bringing attention to this through my work.

Amandla and I teamed together to shine a light on the hatred that Nazi Germany visited on Europe and to make a film that might contribute to the dialogue of how we fight this horrific racial and religious ignorance today, along with the intolerances visited on the many other marginalized groups and intersections.”

Biraciality and interracial relationships are a theme of Asante’s work. She directed Belle, the critically acclaimed film loosely based on the life of a mixed-race daughter of a slave woman and a British naval officer who lived in 18th century England. Her film A United Kingdom, is about a Botswanan prince who marries a white English office worker in 1948.

Donald Trump’s election has brought Nazism, a belief system thought to be on the decline in America, back to the forefront with his open embrace of Neo-Nazis and other racial hardliners. So fans are understandably jitterish about this film bringing visibility to Nazism and romanticizing forbidden love. Black women are often sent the message, sublty or overtly, that interracial marriage is the cultural path forward to racial unity and understanding. And while the United States is undoubtedly, naturally becoming a more mixed society, casting interracial relationships as a panacea overlooks the fact that there still can be real racial tensions in those unions.

In a strongly worded Tumblr post Stenberg addressed critics of her film, saying that she is “trying to do the work”

Where Hands Touch

“Oversimplifying, assuming, and jumping to conclusions with little to no actual basis or information is doing y’all no favors. Righteous problematic labeling contributes nothing to the world and stifles conversations instead of promoting dialogue. How are we supposed to perpetuate change and defend identity – especially when it is needed so badly in today’s political climate – if we are more concerned with declaring our judgements of others in order to affirm our own righteousness? If we are forming our opinions off of rumor, heresay, and perhaps most alarmingly, agreeing with others just to agree and feel a false sense of virtue and satisfaction?

In my eyes, the fundamental values of activism are individual thought and in depth analysis. It strikes me as ironic that those who supposedly lead their lives with these values in their hearts are the same to blindly follow like sheep and make hollow preemptive conclusions.

Y’all, I’m out here trying to do the work. I’m not your target. The world is much larger than this bubble. If you jump to conclusions and make generalizations about others out of fear, you are doing the same thing as the people you claim to morally oppose.”

Ladies, what are your thoughts?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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6 thoughts on “Amandla Stenberg Responds to Criticism for Playing a Nazi’s Love Interest in Latest Film Role

  1. This is the first that I am hearing of this film, and I will definitely see it in theatres when it comes out. It is a story (loosely) based on truth. Loosely because it is not the story of a particular person, yet still truth because it speaks to a time in history, albeit a difficult time.

    I think the controversy is the timing, in that in the political climate that we’re in, that writer and director Amma Asante speaks of, stories are no longer told to be told; instead they’re told to point fingers and lay blame. Which I believe has its merits, in the right time and place. But in the sphere of the big screen, stories that depict horrific details of OUR ugly past, are snubbed and mixed up in controversy. Examples being The Butler, Birth of a Nation.

    Instead of taking the “blamed” approach, we should look at the movie as a piece of history, where an untold story is shared, similarly to the Diary of Anne Frank, which happens to be told from the same era; it’s an experience that was uncommon and from an unexpected perspective (that of a female child) as this story is (that of a biracial female), and I look forward to watching and learning from it.

  2. If this story as about a black man/biracial man in Stenberg’s place there would be no uproar and that is the double standard/ hypocrisy of it all. Why shouldn’t this story be told? Right now? This is perfect timing because of the political climate. People are so sympathetic to other oppressed groups EXCEPT black women. Yes, even black men get the victim pass. I honestly DO NOT UNDERSTAND the concern or better yet “faux concern” over her role. The real issue here is that she is biracial (specifically mixed with black) and instead of fighting the power in society it’s a love story across hate lines. No one has seen the movie and her response is incredibly perfect. STOP JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS thinking that you are somehow trying to “save” black women. No one has ever saved us but ourselves BY doing the very thing that she is trying to do which is tell OUR STORIES. Or would you rather have a non-black woman tell it? Screw it up? I wish people were more analytical and stopped boxing in black/biracial women and let us tell the story.

  3. This movie is a brilliant idea. How many times have we watched or been exposed to one or two sides of the story. Do you know how many people didn’t even know that Nazi Germany had a black population? It’s about time this was covered. People are getting so lazy, they read one line about a movie then get outraged and don’t even know what they’re fussing about. I for one am excited to see it. I love history.

  4. They should’ve cast a Jewish woman. Made this a story of a Jewish woman with a Nazi, and call it a love story. Yeah wonder how well that would go over in predominantly Jewish run Hollywood. Black women always used for someone’s bed warmer Haile Berry got rewarded with an Oscar for being so convincing at it.

  5. I have to admit that I am intrigued by the film’s premise and am interested in seeing how the filmmaker tackles issues of privilege/racism and the nuances of the time period.

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