Hate U Give film-maker to attend local show
Racism, police violence, The Hate U Give is a talking point for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Robert Teitel turned page after page, spellbound by the story of a black teenager who sees a white policeman shoot her boyfriend in the back during a traffic stop.
“As a film-maker I just kept thinking, ‘I can’t wait to put this together and see how it is portrayed in film.’ The book was just so emotional on so many levels.”
The movie producer’s pitch to 20th Century Fox got Angie Thomas’s bestselling young adult novel greenlighted for the big screen.
Now one of the most anticipated movies of the season, The Hate U Give opens at Liberty Theatre on Friday. Mr Teitel will be at the 6.30 show that night and the next, to answer questions from the audience.
He moved here in 2013 with his Bermudian wife, Alison Swan, and their three children, Hayden, Sebastian and Amelia.
“I spend about half my year here,” said Mr Teitel, whose list of films includes Soul Food, Men of Honor and the successful Barbershop series. “I travel a lot. I’ve been visiting the island ever since I met Alison 20 years ago. I love Bermuda and its people.”
The Hate U Give opened to select audiences in the US on Monday. According to Mr Teitel, “Response to it so far has been good.”
Amandla Stenberg, known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, plays Starr Carter, a teen who lives in a predominantly black, urban neighbourhood and attends a mostly white school. To keep her from getting dragged into a media circus, her parents warn her not to let people know she was there when her boyfriend Khalil was shot. Everything changes when a peaceful community protest turns into a riot.
The film has a PG-13 rating because it includes violence, swearing, sexual content and drugs.
“This is one of the most poignant films I’ve ever worked on,” Mr Teitel said. “It’s about more than the shooting of a black teenager. The story is really about finding your voice. I think everyone can relate to that. That is where it becomes universal.
“It’s aimed at young adults, but I think it will appeal to adults as well. The book talks about such adult subject matter.”
The cast also makes the film special, he said. Once Amandla Stenberg was cast in the lead, everyone else fell into place.
“From there it was about making sure that she had good chemistry with the people who play her parents,” Mr Teitel said. “Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall did a great job.”
Filming started in Atlanta a year ago and wrapped in 40 days. Shooting the riot was particularly difficult, the producer said.
“We shot for five straight days from sunup to sundown on the streets of Atlanta. We just wanted to make sure it was an honest portrayal. We went into it in a really smart way. We did a ton of research on riots in different parts of the country.
“It is really about having the right people around you, and making sure everyone is on the same page. That was the most important thing. We had such a great group of people in Atlanta that came out. It made it all real. I felt like we were doing something special. We weren’t just making any old movie. Everyone felt the emotion of the piece.”
Mr Teitel started his movie career in Chicago where he grew up. Five of his 20 films are set there.
While a film student at Columbia College Chicago he met his business partner George Tillman Jr, director of The Hate U Give. One of their first projects was Scenes for the Soul, a film they sold in 1995 that never made it to the screen.
“It cost $150,000 to make and sold for $1 million,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason and that film got us in the business.”
In September, The Hate U Give was well received at the Toronto International Film Festival, recognised as one of the most influential festivals for generating Oscar buzz.
Mr Teitel wouldn’t be drawn on its chances.
“It is so hard to say,” he said. “I know we made the best movie possible and we are just extremely proud of it.”
• The first screening of The Hate U Give is at 2.30pm on Friday. The film continues at Liberty Theatre until October 25. For show times visit www.libertytheatre.bm
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