New Hollywood Podcast: Amma Asante Talks ‘Where Hands Touch’ And The Value Of Untold Multiracial Narratives

Read on: Deadline.

One could say that Amma Asante’s latest, Where Hands Touch is part of a trilogy of films. Before the Holocaust drama starring Amandla Stenberg, she directed David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom and before that, she helmed Belle sta…

Amma Asante On Exploring Race And Identity In WW2 Drama ‘Where Hands Touch’ – Toronto Studio

Read on: Deadline.

Amma Asante made it four for four with her latest release, having four consecutive releases in the official TIFF lineup. Continuing the director’s interest in historical matters, Where Hands Touch tells the story of Leyna, a mixed-race girl coming of a…

Amandla Stenberg Was Shooting ‘Where Hands Touch’ on Election Day: ‘It Felt Timely’

Read on: Variety.

Filmmaker Amma Asante and actors Abbie Cornish and Amandla Stenberg dropped by the Variety Studio presented by AT&T at the Toronto Film Festival to talk about their new movie, “Where Hands Touch.” The film tells the story of Leyna (Stenberg), a you…

‘Where Hands Touch’ Film Review: Amandla Stenberg Packs Emotion in Earnest Holocaust Drama

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Amandla Stenberg has already made her mark on this year’s Toronto Film Festival with an acclaimed central turn in “The Hate U Give.” But she expands her impressive range still further with a second festival entry, Amma Asante’s heartfelt Holocaust drama “Where Hands Touch.”

Despite its upcoming theatrical release, the movie feels like a better fit for the intimacy of living rooms or classrooms, where Stenberg’s powerful performance may draw teen fans into a diligently-conceived history lesson.

The story itself is fictional, but writer-director Asante (“A United Kingdom”) was inspired by the actual experiences of Afro-German citizens persecuted during World War II. Stenberg plays Leyna, a biracial teenager whose mere existence requires perpetual vigilance in 1944 Berlin.

Also Read: Amandla Stenberg’s ‘The Hate U Give’ Gets Fall Release Date

Her terrified single mother, Kerstin (Abbie Cornish), would prefer that Leyna stay inside all the time, away from the threats of prying neighbors, cruel soldiers and Nazi youth. That describes almost everyone in the city, since each boy, including Leyna’s own half-brother, is required to join the movement, and each girl is either a loyal Aryan or destined for danger. As the daughter of a French-African soldier she’s never known, Leyna is contemptuously deemed a “Rhineland bastard,” marking her an unwitting candidate for such official monstrosities as forced sterilization.

With youthful innocence, she ignores her mother’s warnings and begins an unlikely friendship with Lutz (George MacKay, “Captain Fantastic”), the son of a Nazi leader (erstwhile Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston). Lutz toes the party line in most ways — he spares no sympathy for Jewish “rats” — but is the only outsider to show Leyna any kindness. The two soon fall in love, oblivious to the reality both their parents understand: a relationship between people of such dangerously unequal status is impossible by any standards.

Also Read: Olivia Munn Says She Feels Isolated by ‘Predator’ Cast After Scene Cut

Asante has faced unfair controversy in the run-up to the movie’s release by those preemptively worried about attempts to romanticize Nazism or to exploit a tragic setting. In fact, her respect for the material is both evident and overarching. Where her 2014 film, the excellent and underseen “Belle,” was suffused with passion, this one feels guided by principle: she is intently determined to give voice to stories that have not yet been told.

She struggles with pacing and an unfocused screenplay, but even these flaws reflect an earnest attempt to grapple with overwhelming historic injustice. Asante’s loyalty to Leyna, her stand-in for so many real victims, is the film’s guiding force, and we can feel the weight of this responsibility in every scene.

Also Read: ‘Widows’ Film Review: Viola Davis, Steve McQueen Team Up for a Curious Heist Movie

The cast is equally committed to their difficult tasks. MacKay finds a way to convey Lutz’s confusion without underselling the monstrous ideologies he’s been taught to espouse. And Cornish wisely resists the urge to turn Kerstin into a maternal martyr, tempering fierce loyalty with complex anger (though her convincing portrayal of an exhausted middle-aged mother may startle those who remember her wild child roles in mid-aughties movies like “Somersault,” “One Perfect Day” and “Candy”).

It’s Stenberg, however, who carries the film, embodying a wrenching span as Leyna is buffeted between the extremes of love and brutality. Like Asante, she’s put her all into this sprawling project, pulling us in with deceptively effortless skill.

That said, the weight of history is a heavy burden for one film to carry, especially when freighted still further by contemporary parallels. Ultimately, Leyna is as much a symbol as a fully-drawn character, one young girl representing multitudes. Nevertheless, those who find their way to her essential story will come away not only enlightened, but undeniably touched.



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‘Where Hands Touch’ Filmmaker Amma Asante Responds to Claims Her WWII Drama ‘Romanticizes Nazism’ — TIFF

Read on: IndieWire.

Seven months after a first-look photo of the film stirred up controversy online, it’s finally making its debut. Asante tells IndieWire what she learned from the backlash, and what she hopes people will take away from the finished film.

Amma Asante to direct a movie about a Soviet engineer executed for being a spy

Read on: The A.V. Club.

According to Deadline, British actor and filmmaker Amma Asante has signed on to direct an adaptation of David E. Hoffman’s The Billion Dollar Spy. The movie will be about Adolf Tolkachev, the former chief engineer of the Soviet Union’s Research Institute Of Radio Engineering. During the Cold War, Tolkachev lost faith…

Read more…

Amma Asante to Direct ‘Billion Dollar Spy’ Film Adaptation

Read on: Variety.

British director Amma Asante will helm the film adaptation of David E. Hoffman’s “The Billion Dollar Spy.” The movie, written by Ben August (“Remember”), will be produced by Walden Media and Akiva Goldsman. Greg Lessans of Weed Road Pictures will serve as executive producer and Naia Cucukov will oversee the project for Walden Media. The story centers […]

Amma Asante To Direct Drama Thriller ‘The Billion Dollar Spy’ For Walden Media

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Amma Asante has been set to direct the upcoming film adaptation of David E. Hoffman‘s drama thriller The Billion Dollar Spy for Walden Media and Weed Road Pictures. Asante is a British writer-director whose A United Kingdom (starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike) won critical kudos both here and abroad.
The Billion Dollar Spy is the true story of a man who became the Pentagon’s most valuable spy during the last years of the Cold War. Despite numerous rejections…

Amandla Stenberg Drama ‘Where Hands Touch’ Lands at Sony in Multiple Territories

Read on: Variety.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has made a multi-territory deal for Amma Asante’s World War II drama “Where Hands Touch,” which stars Amandla Stenberg, George Mackay and Abbie Cornish. Sony has picked up most of international, excluding select European territories and Australia. Protagonist Pictures is selling the film in Cannes. The coming-of-age story takes place in… Read more »

Sony Pictures Worldwide Takes Amma Asante’s ‘Where Hands Touch’ – Cannes

Read on: Deadline.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has made a multi-territory deal for Amma Asante‘s World War II drama Where Hands Touch starring Amandla Stenberg, George Mackay and Abbie Cornish. Protagonist Pictures is handling sales for the pic here in Cannes.
SPWA has picked up most of international excluding select European territories and Australia. The deal was negotiated by Protagonist CEO Mike Goodridge and Head of Worldwide Sales Vanessa Saal with SPWA EVP Acquisitions Joe…

First Look: Amandla Stenberg, George MacKay in Amma Asante’s ‘Where Hands Touch’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Read on: Variety.

Variety has been given exclusive access to the first-look image from Amma Asante’s “Where Hands Touch,” which stars Amandla Stenberg (“The Hunger Games”) and George MacKay (“Captain Fantastic”) in a story of forbidden love in Nazi Germany. Fifteen-year-old Leyna (Stenberg), daughter of a white German mother and a black father, meets Lutz (MacKay), the son… Read more »

‘A United Kingdom’ Review: David Oyelowo Drama Is a Ho-Hum Crowd-Pleaser

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

This review was first posted after “A United Kingdom” screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

Well-meaning, socially conscious dramas are a staple at every Toronto International Film Festival. In these parts, and through the rest of awards season, the condescending term for them is “Oscar bait.”

“A United Kingdom,” the new film from “Belle” director Amma Asante, will probably be saddled with that label more than any other film that has played at TIFF so far this year — and while that might be an unfair reduction of a love story of some consequence, it’s not an inaccurate one.

On a day that saw bold films like “Nocturnal Animals,” “Arrival” and “The Birth of a Nation” screen in Toronto, “A United Kingdom” felt old hat, not fresh.

In a bit of movie-business synchronicity, the film is one of two different dramas that will deal with interracial marriages this fall, with the other being Jeff Nichols‘ “Loving,” which premiered in Cannes and is also playing at TIFF.

Also Read: Why ‘Magnificent Seven’ May Be Hollywood’s First Color-Blind Blockbuster

That film dealt with the charged environment of race relations in the American South during the 1950s and ’60s, and told its story in the quietest, subtlest way imaginable; though its lead characters went to court and set a hugely important precedent, their point of view was simply that they wanted to live their lives out of the spotlight.

“A United Kingdom” is a dramatically different film, with characters who never have the option of anonymity. David Oyelowo plays Seretse Khama, a real-life Botswana prince who helped secure the former British protectorate’s independence while controversially married to a white Englishwoman, played by Rosamund Pike.

Also Read: ‘Magnificent Seven’ Director Floats Idea of All-Female Remake

The marriage meets with resistance from his own tribe, but more notably from the British government, which is wary of offending apartheid-era South Africa, on which it depends for gold and uranium.

Where Jeff Nichols‘ film relies on understatement and people who don’t say much, “A United Kingdom” is big and old-fashioned, full of stirring speeches and heart-warming moments.

That’s not necessarily bad, mind you — as he showed in “Selma,” Oyelowo is pretty great at delivering stirring speeches, and his performance here is typically powerful. And Pike, as a woman who doesn’t know what she’s getting into but has the inner reservoirs of strength to rise to the occasion, knows how to navigate a role that’s significantly less complex and nuanced than, say, “Gone Girl,” in the process creating a woman to root for.

Also Read: ‘Before the Flood’ Toronto Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Brings Star Power to the Climate-Change Wars

The movie as a whole is distinctly crowd-pleasing; it received a rousing ovation at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday evening, and figures to be a favorite for an audience that likes beautifully old-school filmmaking.

But the beats are too predictable — and even though the film tells a story we may not have known until now, the storytelling is too familiar. From the beginning, the audience knows that love will win out and the music will swell and the endings will be happy.

The formula works, but not well enough to make the film stand out at TIFF or beyond.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Before the Flood’ Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Brings Star Power to Climate-Change Wars

Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ Slays With Cynicism, Wins Over Toronto

Toronto Film Festival: Awards, Politics and, Oh Yeah, ‘Birth of a Nation’