‘Where Hands Touch’ filmmaker Amma Asante and star Amandla Stenberg discuss the bigger meaning behind the untold story

‘Where Hands Touch’ shows another side of Nazi, Germany that many tend to forget and MEAWW spoke exclusively to the filmmaker and star to dig deeper into the heart-wrenching story.


                            ‘Where Hands Touch’ filmmaker Amma Asante and star Amandla Stenberg discuss the bigger meaning behind the untold story

Starring Amandla Stenberg, and written and directed by Amma Asante, on the surface ‘Where Hands Touch’ is about a half German half African 15-year-old girl who falls in love with a Nazi soldier. The film is a unique re-telling of one of the most devastating parts of our history; however, after speaking to Asante and Stenberg, it’s clear that this film is intended to be much more than a tragic love story. Asante’s intent was never to romanticize this dangerous love, but to open the audience’s eyes to the humanity and desire these characters had for a human connection.

‘Where Hands Touch’ shows another side of Nazi, Germany that many tend to forget and MEAWW spoke exclusively to the filmmaker and star to dig deeper into the heart-wrenching story.



 

Asante says, “You shouldn’t be leaving this movie thinking this is an aspirational love in the way that romantic dramas often are. You shouldn’t be thinking ‘I want to go out and find a relationship like that.’ You should be nervous for her all the way through." 

Stenberg expanded on this, explaining how her character’s naïve nature added greatly to the danger she was already in. 

“What is so terrifying about Leyna is her naïveté. The fact that she is just a child who wants human experiences and is reprimanded for having that desire to be a young adult. At first, Leyna does not understand the extent of the danger. People in those communities were so shielded from those realities and blinded from the truth, and it's not until Leyna encounters it first hand that she even experiences the mental terror of being under that kind of persecution. It was important for me to retain those basic human desires of adventure, youth and wanting to grow.”

Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) gives a powerful performance as a biracial teen navigating her place in Nazi Germany while fighting to survive the war. |
Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) gives a powerful performance as a biracial teen navigating her place in Nazi Germany while fighting to survive the war. |

Speaking of youth and desire, it’s hard to not compare ‘Where Hands Touch’ to 'Romeo & Juliet,' the quintessential story of star-crossed lovers. However, even though the stakes were high in the Shakespeare classic that has been retold countless times, the stakes are far greater in 'Where Hands Touch.' 

That being said, the scenes that Stenberg and her romantic counterpart (played by George MacKay) have together not only bring out the exciting and sweet nature of first love but also panic, as these two teens are truly risking their lives to be together. Asante spoke more on this, explaining the importance of this dichotomy. 

“I wanted there to be a whimsical vibe in certain moments at the beginning of the film, showing what it was like to be hopeful in a world that was pretty much hopeless. The relationship is there to show that these children are seeking out some normality where there is none. They are desperately doing what kids do, which is to try to make life ordinary when life isn't ordinary at all. It gets to a point where we know it's going to get to. We know they are going to roll into a situation where they are going to be confronted with the reality of the world and what that means. There is this naïve teen who believes he can save the girl he has created this connection with, and you should be sitting in your seat knowing that he can’t.”

As most films about the Holocaust are, of course, about the devastating persecution of Jews during WWII, ‘Where Hands Touch’ very clearly takes a different approach. The truth is, besides the Jews, anyone of African descent was the Nazi’s next target. This is something Asante really wanted to explore, as she too is European and of African descent and wanted to know more about people like her during this devastating time.

 



 

“The really early idea just came from the fact that I didn’t know a lot about the history of people like me. People who were born of African descent and raised in Europe. I knew more about African American history but not of my own. I kept coming across this picture from the United States Holocaust museum of this little Afro-German girl standing with her classmate, and she had this really unreadable look on her face, and I wanted to know more about her. Who was she? Why was she there? What was her experience?  Was she happy? Was she sad? I always read a lot of Jewish literature around the Holocaust, and I wanted to open a wider window to it.”


‘Where Hands Touch’ touches on many parts of the Holocaust that Hollywood has never explored, which is what makes it an important film that everyone needs to see.

‘Where Hands Touch’ is now playing in select theatres nationwide.