‘Where Hands Touch’: A Holocaust love story sparks controversy, but is it in good hands?

Amandla Stenberg and Amma Asante team up to shed light on controversial ground.

9:00 am EST, February 15, 2017

Amma Asante adds to her already shining portfolio with a new film, Where Hands Touch: the love story of a mixed-race German girl and a Hitler Youth boy, starring Amandla Stenberg and George McKay, sparking a conversation about the importance — and the dangers — of Holocaust love stories.

Asante is a critically acclaimed director known for bringing beautiful and empowering diverse stories to screen. Her directorial debut, A Way of Life (2004), earned her a BAFTA Award for Special Achievement, and Belle (2013) stunned audiences with its beautiful yet eye-opening take on the role of a mixed-race woman in ending slavery in England. Her latest film, A United Kingdom, about a white British woman who marries a Prince from Botswana, has been in theaters since last week.

With a career devoted to telling such meaningful stories, it’s no surprise that her next film also touches on race, love, and history.

Where Hands Touch has been in the works for 10 years. It’s a romantic drama set in Nazi Germany, and stars Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg alongside George McKay, who starred in Captain Fantastic last year.

Stenberg, who 0plays the female lead, is no stranger to telling unique, diverse stories, especially about race and LGBTQ issues. Since The Hunger Games, she has been an outspoken advocate of intersectional feminism, especially for African American women, and even appeared in Beyoncé’s Lemonade last year. After blowing us away from the very beginning with her role as Rue five years ago, it will be fascinating to see her in a more mature role, grappling with a horrific historical period, the repercussions of which we are still feeling today.

McKay has also proven himself to be a talented actor, with an excellent performance as Bo in Captain Fantastic alongside Viggo Mortensen (whose role in the film earned him an Academy Award nomination). His unique mix of cunning stoicism and aching vulnerability will certainly make this new performance just as memorable.

stenberg where hands touch

Where Hands Touch takes us to the little-explored ground of interracial relationships in World War II Germany, following a love story between a mixed-race German girl and the son of an SS Officer. In an interview with Variety, Asante said:

“It has been a passion of mine to tell this story for many years — to shine a light on the existence of German children of color who were forced to grow up under Hitler’s rule, labelled as ‘Rhineland bastards.’ Against this historical backdrop, Leyna and Lutz enter a rite of passage negotiating the path to true identity in a society that has turned in on itself and is eating its own tail. Completing this film brings together everything I am as filmmaker.”

But the First Look image sparked controversy across the internet as people began questioning the wisdom in portraying a Nazi as a love interest. This is not the first time this argument has been made; especially in romance fiction, authors have dealt with much backlash for romanticizing Nazis and taking ‘forbidden love’ one step too far. It’s an understandable concern — the last thing we need is to make fascism seem even slightly sympathetic, especially with such a recent period in history.

But Asante, hearing questions and concerns flood in about the nature of the film, responded via Instagram with a very well-worded speech:

I want assure you that this film does not romanticize Nazis in any way. (…) My passion has been to shine a light on the existence of the children of color who were born and raised under Hitler. These children were also persecuted and my wish has been to explore how black and bi-racial German identity was perceived and experienced under Nazi fascist rule. This girl’s experience 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) sits 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 have all 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.

At the end of her comment, she added, “I want to explore the voices and experiences of the marginalized. By exploring the experiences of yesterday, we can hopefully be better prepared when ugliness and hatred heads our way, today.”

Stenberg also took to Tumblr to express her concern at the backlash the film is receiving, saying, “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.”

stenberg asante

As common as World War II movies are, the truth is that we still haven’t learned enough from them. It’s questions such as “How did we let it happen?” and “What were we thinking?” that keep us returning to stories about the Holocaust. It’s a quiet, deep fear of humanity: the knowledge that as a species we are capable of committing such atrocities, or at the very least, look the other way when they are happening.

A movie that tackles these unexplored facts about the mixed-race population in Germany, and sees it from both the point of view of a victim of ethnic cleansing and a person with enough privilege to potentially turn a blind eye, is very, very significant. In extreme circumstances, unfortunately, all of us could potentially fill both roles in one way or another.

It’s important to acknowledge all victims of the Holocaust, and tell the stories that have not been told until now. And there’s a striking relevance to the journey of a privileged boy, affected by the vicious brainwashing forces of his surroundings, who comes to understand what he has been taught… and presumably chooses to resist it.

If anyone is prepared to tackle such an ambitious project, it’s Asante, backed by a cast of talented actors. She isn’t afraid to expose the nuances of these real situations; she unpacks them carefully and then skillfully puts them together. If Where Hands Touch has anywhere near as much love and care put into it as her other films, we probably have nothing to be concerned about.

Christopher Eccleston, best known for his role as the Ninth Doctor in Doctor Who, is also lined up to star in the film, which is set to premiere sometime later this year.

In the meantime, check out A United Kingdom, Asante’s biographical drama starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo, which is currently in theaters!

Here are the 2017 Oscars winners and losers

8:25 pm EST, February 26, 2017

The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

Read full article

The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

Related: We asked our parents to describe the 2017 Oscar nominees

Below is a complete list of Oscar winner and losers.

2017 Oscar winner list

Note: The final winner of the night was originally announced to be La La Land, but the announcement was actually an error — Moonlight won Best Picture. Awkward.

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land

Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Fences – August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Lion – Luke Davies
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Manchester By the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Original Song:
“Audition” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Cinematography:
Bradford Young – Arrival
Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Grieg Fraser – Lion
James Laxton – Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence

Best Live Action Short Film
Timecode
Sing
Silent Nights
Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV

Best Documentary, Short Subject:
4.1 Miles
Extremis
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Animated Short:
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine, Denmark
The Salesman, Iran
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
Tanna, Australia
Toni Erdmann, Germany

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Documentary Feature:
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad
A Man Called Ove

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Tags: 2017 Oscars

Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

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Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

It should come as no surprise that Arrival is being considered for Best Picture in the upcoming Academy Awards. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a name for himself with movies such as Prisoners and Sicario, known for combining raw humanity with breakneck intensity. But although Villeneuve is an extremely talented director, and is accompanied by an excellent cast, it’s Arrival’s score that succeeds in bringing all the delicate pieces of the film together in one cohesive whole… and drawing the audience in.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer that has collaborated with Villeneuve repeatedly, and received Academy Award nominations for his work on movies such as The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Unfortunately, Arrival’s score, although arguably his best work yet, is not eligible for nomination this year. In an exclusive report, Variety explained:

“The Academy’s music branch ruled unanimously that voters would be influenced by the use of borrowed material in determining the value of Johann Jóhannsson’s original contributions to Denis Villeneuve’s alien invasion psychodrama.

“Per Rule 15 II E of the Academy’s rules and eligibility guidelines, a score ‘shall not be eligible if it has been diluted by the use of pre-existing music, or it has been diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs or any music not composed specifically for the film by the submitting composer’”

With the director choosing to place Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” in the beginning and ending sequences of the film (a song which was also a part of Shutter Island’s score), Jóhannsson’s work sadly lost its chance at an Oscar nomination. According to Variety, “it was determined that there would be no way for the audience to distinguish those cues, which bookend the film, from Jóhannsson’s score cues.”

In an interview with Slash Film, Jóhannsson said that he initially wrote his own alternative to the track, while knowing that Villaneuve was considering “On the Nature of Daylight” as well, although it was very different, as he didn’t “really want to do a knock-off of the music.” Ultimately, Jóhannsson says that he supports the choice, because it “works beautifully and it supplies a very strong contrast to the rest of the score.” But it’s a pity that artistic decisions like this one can cost an exceptional composer an Oscar.

For Arrival, his ability to grip the listener with only a few sounds and rhythms, gradually building up to something of massive proportions, was perfectly harnessed once again to create something truly new. The composer told the Guardian: “People are hungry for new sounds, and for the experience of listening to unfamiliar music that you don’t hear on commercials and in every TV show.”

Composers for sci-fi movies tend to favor epic soundtracks to draw audiences into the scene and make them feel the full blow of the story’s emotions. Jóhannsson, however, entirely avoided using orchestras and sounds in the way that we’re familiar with. His quiet buildup is much more powerful. The track “First Encounter,” for example, is mysterious, ominous, and ultimately overwhelming when the sound suddenly comes to life.

“In mainstream cinema, there’s usually too much music,” he said. “In Arrival, the use of space and silence is extremely important. When music is needed, it’s really there and it serves a purpose.”

The music fits in so well that it becomes hard to know when you’re listening to the score, and when you’re listening to the scene. Both elements mesh so well together that they become nearly indistinguishable. And the quietness that is the underlying current of most tracks is a marvelous replica of human emotion — in the case of First Encounter, of what a mind in shock feels like when faced with an experience it can’t understand.

To achieve the unfamiliar sounds that surround Arrival’s alien ships and their mysterious passengers, Jóhannsson brought together vocalists and choirs, to experiment with what could be done with voices, and combining them with cellos, horns, and wood sounds. He explained to Slash Film:

“The reason I wanted voices was really motivated by the script and the story. It’s a story about communication. It’s a story about language. It’s a story about communicating with an alien species. How do we communicate with an intelligent species with who we have no common point of reference? It was this anthropological aspect, this linguistic aspect, that really influences my choice of orchestration and instrumentation.”

It makes for a truly fascinating combination of sounds. Jóhannsson somehow manages to make simple vocal exercises into music that can be anywhere between heartbreaking and heart-wrenchingly hopeful, turning vocal harmony into something almost tangible, and shedding a small ray of light into the mystery of achieving unity in diversity.

This isn’t a horror-movie score — it’s something transporting, yet ambiguous; a difficult task to achieve nowadays. With decades of listening to scores with similar patterns, it takes a lot to leave audience members in the dark about what is about to happen. We’ve become used to screeching violins meaning impending terror, to drums meaning action scenes, to lengthy orchestra pieces surrounding the climax of the film.

We’re used to hearing Hans Zimmer and John William’s epic orchestras, and while beloved and immortalized for their loveliness, they are no longer as revolutionary. We know the swelling sound of strings and the beating of drums, and we have learned to associate certain sounds with victory, and other sounds with fear.

With Jóhannsson, on the other hand, we don’t know what to expect — is the thrumming noise and the horns in the distance leading us to a scene of horror and destruction, or are we about to discover something beautiful? The score leads us into the ship itself, into the arrival, and poses the same questions with music that the movie does with words and breathtaking cinematography.

And yet, despite the unfamiliarity and ambiguity, the result is still something that feels inherently personal. It’s an emotional experience, even in the silences — a difficult task to achieve with such a minimalist style as Jóhannsson’s — and it’s marvelously memorable. It manages to do exactly what Arrival did for us as a film: draw us in with the promise of alien appearances on Earth, and then steal our hearts with the uniquely human experience of choice, trust, love and death.

Interstellar has tried to do this before — melding human vulnerability with world-defining stakes — but critics are split on whether or not it was a success. With Arrival, however, there’s no doubt that the balance between the intimate and the epic was perfectly reached; and it was because of Johann Jóhannsson.

Arrival has been nominated for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Mixing – the closest we’ll get to a soundtrack Academy Award — as well as Best Picture, and many others.

Jóhannsson is currently working on the score for Blade Runner 2049 (also directed by Villeneuve), which is expected to premiere this October.

Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

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Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

No word on if the U.K. will be seeing the same air date but it’s more than likely they will since it’s been like that in years past.

This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor, along with Steven Moffat’s last season running the show. After this we’ll be seeing Chris Chibnall taking the reins with a clean slate, and we’re so curious about how the series will go. How will the Doctor regenerate? Will this be Bill’s first and last season on the show as well? Who’s going to be the next Doctor? We’ve got so many questions! But they’ll all be answered in due time… we hope.

And that’s not all! Fans in the U.K. have already had the chance to enjoy the brand new spinoff series, Class, and after Doctor Who premieres on April 15 Americans will finally witness it as well.

Set to air directly after Doctor Who at 10/9c, Class is helmed by award-winning YA writer and executive producer, Patrick Ness. The series follows a group of students at Coal Hill School as they deal aliens, invasions and awkward social dilemmas.

Having seen Class in its entirety we can tell you that it’s got the perfect Doctor Who vibe and should fit in perfectly after you watch the season 10 premiere. Although not everyone loved the premiere, the series as whole definitely grows on you. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

Are you excited for ‘Doctor Who’ season 10?