Based on the YA novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give tackles relevant social issues that are not just applicable to young adults. The George Tillman Jr.-directed pic adapted by the late Audrey Wells follows the story of Starr as she witnesses the killing of her best friend at the hands of a cop, making her face the pressure from her majority black neighborhood and her privileged majority white school to find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

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The film’s stars Amandla Stenberg and Russell Hornsby spoke to Deadline’s Pete Hammond Saturday at Contenders New York about the timely significance of the pic.

“This film is definitely like a synchronistic dream scenario — a marrying of everything I want to do which is leverage the power of film to speak to things that are really complicated and really tricky to address,” said Stenberg.

The title of the film comes from “THUG LIFE”, a term coined by prolific rapper Tupac which is an acronym that stands for: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everyone.” The term goes beyond a simple title of the film but also illustrates the treatment of the black community and how they prepare their children for what they are about to face when they grow up as black adults.

“It’s basically saying whatever you feed young people that’s what they’ll internalize and that’s who they will become,” explains Hornsby. “If you feed them love they’ll be loved and give love in return. If you feed them hate, they’ll embody that hate and internalize that hate and in turn, give that hate back.”

The Hate U Give
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He continues, “This internalized hate starts younger and younger and, unfortunately, because of that, their youth and innocence gets snatched away and gets younger and younger.”

Hornsby talks about the opening scene of The Hate U Give, which has his character giving his children (young Starr included), “the talk” — a very pivotal moment in the lives of those in the black community.

In the book, happens in the middle of the story. The movie starts with “the talk” to set the tone and prepares the audience for what’s to come.

“It’s an important moment that happens in a lot of black homes in this country,” Hornsby points out. “Parents have to prepare their children for what’s out there — and what they expect when they get into the real world.”