Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) is a biracial teen living in 1944 Germany in the new movie Where Hands Touch. The daughter of a white woman and black man, Leyna is a German citizen but not the kind that’s in favor at the moment. While she ostensibly has all the rights and privileges others do, she lives in fear because of the persecution of ethnic and racial minorities happening all around her.
One day she meets Lutz (George MacKay), a member of the Hitler Youth and son of a prominent SS official. The two fall in love in the passionate, emotional way only teens can, but their relationship is fraught with the difficulties of the time, as Leyna must balance her love for Lutz with the horrors being visited on others all around her.
The movie’s only poster tries its darndest to communicate the message of the story but is weighed down by poor design. Stenberg as Leyna is in the center of the frame, looking out hopefully just off to the side of the camera. In the background a building is draped in Nazi flags as bombers fly overhead. This looks like something designed by committee, where everyone just had to make sure it was as bland and unappealing as possible.
The first trailer makes it clear there is no whitewashing or underplaying of the German Nazi regime in the story. We watch as Leyna’s family works to keep her safe as thing intensify because she looks like someone the regime would otherwise be targeting. She has limited freedoms because she has papers that keep her safe. But things begin to get troublesome when her relationship with Lutz causes problems not only for her but also for him as the son of a prominent military official.
Online and Social
All you’ll find on the official website is the trailer, a synopsis, a photo gallery and the ability to buy tickets for a screening near you. There are also links to the Facebook and Instagram profiles for the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing here that I’ve seen or am aware of.
Media and Publicity
A first look still was released way back in 2017, well before the movie eventually debuted at the 2018 Venice Film Festival. In that time, Stenberg and director Amma Asante repeatedly, including just before Venice, had to defend the movie as one that didn’t in any way romanticize Nazis or their ideology.
Around the time of the first trailer a featurette was released that included the cast and crew talking about the story, the production and the realities of the world the movie takes place in, focusing on how it’s still a YA romance at heart.
The movie also appeared at the Toronto Film Festival, where it received fairly good reviews and word of mouth. While there Stenberg spoke about how the production, which took place during the 2016 presidential election, added all the more to the feeling the story was timeless. She was also the subject of a profile that covered the movie as well as what else she’s done in her career.
Asante was interviewed about whether the story is based on a real person, clarifying that it’s more a composite of the experiences of people like Leyna at the time.
I understand the points people have made that the movie seems to relegate Nazi Germany to “Just Another Tragic Backdrop,” but that seems to be somewhat unfounded, even just based on the campaign. There’s clearly enough here that explains the reality of what was happening, even if it doesn’t make that the focal point of the story.
The problem, then, is that it’s hard to have it both ways, to tell a story related to the Holocaust without telling the story *of* the Holocaust. Not only that, but the publicity campaign did not have Stenberg’s full attention, as she’s also on the road promoting The Hate U Give, coming later this year. So it will likely slip through the cracks, further marginalizing the story.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
A new 30-second spot has been released that focuses on the dangers faced by Leyna more than the teen romance angle.