Based on the groundbreaking book by Audrey Wells The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a young black woman who lives in the poor part of time but goes to school at an elite – and mostly white – high school. She balances both worlds in various ways, being part of each community when she can.
That balance is disrupted when her friend Khalil (Algee Smith) is shot by a police officer. Starr is angry and sad and finds she wants to speak up and fight back against the kind of system that would allow such a thing to happen. Both halves of her life, though, are pressuring in different ways and she has to find the courage to carry on despite all that.
(Note: This came out a couple weeks ago in limited release and I just missed it because the official release date I was using to plan my recaps listed 10/19. No oversight or slight was intended.)
The first and only poster is a variation on the original book cover art, showing Starr holding up a sign with the movie’s title.
Debra Cartwright, the artist who designed that original book cover, had some thoughts on both creating that first work and its use for theatrical key art as well as the casting of a light-skinned girl, which runs counter to the dark-skinned figure seen on the novel.
We meet Starr and get a glimpse of her life in the first trailer, seeing all the people and places in her neighborhood, including a local boy who’s crushing on her. She explains how she code-switches when she leaves home to attend a magnet high school, turning into a whole different version of herself. When she’s out with Khalil one night he’s shot by police during a DWB-inspired stop, throwing her whole world into chaos. Many encourage her to stay quiet, especially after being pressured by police, but Starr insists on speaking up and speaking out because she knows what happened wasn’t right.
Online and Social
It’s a pretty standard content offering on the movie’s official website, which features videos, a synopsis, photos and more along with links to official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. The one section worth calling out is the “Educator Resources,” which links to an outside website where teachers can download study and discussion guides to help foster and direct conversations about the movie’s story and themes.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The studio sponsored a presence for the movie at VidCon, the popular gather of video creators and media companies who want to get their attention. Later on Barnes & Noble announced it would hold discussion forums for the book at select locations around the country.
The first TV spot starts out playing much like the first trailer, but then dives more deeply into how the shooting she witnesses and her role following that impacts the code-switched life she leads at the magnet high school she attends.
One of the featurettes below was used as a Promoted Tweet with a link to buy tickets.
Media and Publicity
The first publicity for the film was not great. YouTube personality Kian Lawley was originally cast as Chris and most all the movie shot with him. It was only then that controversy developed because of past videos from Lawley where he used racially offensive language in a dead-serious way. That was doubly troubling because of the story’s subject matter. So his role was recast with Apa in that role and much of the movie reshot from scratch, something Steinberg and director George Tillman Jr. spoke about while Fox was promoting the film at CinemaCon. Around that same time a first still was released.
Not only did it appear at VidCon but Angie Thomas, the author of the source novel, appeared with the director and cast at various book and literary events and conventions. VidCon attendees also received a sneak peek at the teaser for the movie before it was released shortly thereafter during the BET Awards.
The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It later appeared at the Hamptons Film Festival, where it won the audience award.
Stenberg was among those featured in Variety’s issue focusing on rising young talent, giving her an opportunity to talk about inclusivity in genre films, her career so far and more. Around that same time Thomas and Tillman spoke about the events that inspired the story and how it came to be adapted into a film, respectively.
The first clip released showed Starr coming to terms with the violence she’s witnessed and which is part of everyone’s life, with her father explaining it’s a trap other people fall into.
Around the time of Toronto a featurette was released showing the entire cast as well as Tillman talking about the story and its themes and how both are as timely now as they’ve ever been.
Toronto provided plenty of opportunities for the cast and crew to talk about the film, with Hornsby talking about the stakes for his career in playing Starr’s father, everyone explaining what the movie means to them, Stenberg clarifying for the white people in the back that “post-racial America” isn’t a thing that’s ever been, and everyone addressing the issue of supposed color-blindness.
It was also announced as among the films screening at the Urbanworld Film Festival. It was later revealed Def Jam would release the soundtrack for the movie. Tillman later talked about the themes and story elements of the movie.
A series of free screenings were arranged by Fox for youth organizations both to speak to those organizations and hopefully generate some word of mouth.
Hornsby was interviewed about how the powerful script had him hooked immediately while the whole cast offered their thoughts on how they approached the story and their characters, including how they drew inspiration from real people in their lives.
How Lawley was removed from the film and replaced with Apa came back up closer to release, including new details of just when the controversial comments were made and how they impacted everyone involved.
Regina Hall has been in a number of things recently, but her appearance on “Kimmel” included promotion of this movie. Stenberg also showed up on a number of talk shows both in the morning and late night to talk about the movie and share other amusing stories.
There was a whole mini-campaign launched focused on the #ReplaceHate message. That kicked off with ashort spot featuring the cast holding up signs featuring different words such as “empathy” plugged in where “hate” is in the title. Additional spots featured Stenberg as well as actual fans participating and spreading the message.
I’m more than a little shocked this hasn’t been more fervently used as a whipping post by Fox News or, if it has, that such commentary hasn’t been covered by the mainstream entertainment trade press. Considering its high profile and powerful message, you’d think Ted Cruz or someone would have a strong opinion on how it’s corrupting our youth by teaching them to not be deferential to the police or something.
Snark aside, this seems like the crown jewel in the recent wave of movies featuring #BlackLivesMatter and other racial themes and stories. It carries a very positive message about standing up for what you believe in even if the world is telling you to sit down. And if the movie encourages a few more people to understand what “code-switching” is and how those around them use it, so much the better.