The premise of a new film, Where Hands Touch, is as following:
WHERE HANDS TOUCH is a coming of age story set in the most brutal of times: Germany, 1944. Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), the 15-year old daughter of a white German mother (Abbie Cornish) and a black African father, meets Lutz (George MacKay), a compassionate member of the Hitler Youth whose father (Christopher Eccleston) is a prominent Nazi soldier, and they form an unlikely connection in this quickly changing world.
As Leyna’s mother strives to protect her from the horrors that she could face as a mixed-race German citizen, Leyna is forced to forge her own path as the war goes on and the Nazis increase their atrocities over the Jews and all dissidents. Can she find an ally in Lutz, himself battling a fate laid out before him that he is hesitant to embrace?
The trailer just came out, and the film will be released on September 14.
We, like many others, have a lot of questions. Where are the Jews? Why are we romanticizing Nazis? Who thought this movie was okay?
When the first picture from the film was released in February 2017, there was a ton of backlash.
— Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi) February 10, 2017
Amma Asante, the filmmaker, defended the film in response to the initial backlash. She wrote on Instagram that she is not romanticizing Nazis, but rather wants 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.” For Asante, she wants to focus on “the existence of the other ‘others’ who suffered during the Holocaust,” but “this does not mean that the Jewish experience is not also key to our story.”
Amandla Stenberg also defended the film, explaining, “We lack a range of the experience of black people throughout history, let alone a story about someone who is biracial.” She says her character “is not living the Jewish experience. She is experiencing racism and persecution… where she lives an experience parallel to that of Romani people or disabled people or mentally ill people… those who were not Jewish and were not sent to extermination camps.”
Further, Amandla said, “It’s challenging for people to conceive of a story about the Holocaust that is not centered around the Jewish experience, but the experience of someone else.”
However, that’s not the issue. The main discomfort around this film doesn’t focus on telling stories of others who suffered during the Holocaust, but making the love interest a Nazi and giving him a redemption arc.
As a Hypable article points out, “The narrative of ‘the good Nazi’ or a romance that focuses on a young woman who is targeted by Nazis — the narrative most commonly features a Jewish woman, like 2016’s The Exception — falling for a Nazi soldier isn’t anything new. However, it’s a narrative many deem harmful, especially in today’s political climate. In a time where there are Nazis holding rallies with their rhetoric is being whitewashed under the more palatable (though still as dangerous) moniker of ‘white nationalism,’ is now really the time to show how a love story that, in essence, humanizes a Nazi?”
Twitter feels similarly.
Some choice tweets on the issue:
1. The Final Solution should not be your romance backdrop
the final solutiom should not be your backdrop for a grand historical romance narrative, especially one where half of the main couple is a member of the hitler youth
— kendra (@KengieHasFeels) August 29, 2018
2. Stop 👏 romanticizing 👏 Nazis 👏
can yall fucking stop romanticizing ACTUAL NAZIS,, when the holocaust happened only 73 years ago,, this isnt funny we only missed it by a few generations,, https://t.co/EbaB9AERYG
— noam is on anti stucky list (@jewishkate) September 2, 2018
3. Seriously. It’s not the time.
Okay. I just saw the trailer for 'Where Hands Touch' and like… This REALLY isn't the time to be releasing films that humanize Nazis.
— Nisah (@ak_crzy) September 2, 2018
4. We won’t like the film unless there is a twist ending.
unless "where hands touch" ends with the chick realising she's a dumbass & brutally murdering the nazi then i'm going to pass 💀
— extrala (@sIickslack) September 2, 2018
5. Again: the concern is not that it’s focusing on a biracial girl.
the main concern for 'where hands touch' that i've seen is that it will feature a 'good nazi' character (one falling in love with amandla's character). which romanticizes nazis, whether they want to or not. not that it's a story about biracial girl during holocaust
— joanna (@lubezkis) August 29, 2018
6. Don’t center it on a Hitler Youth!
u know what really gets me angry abt the amandla stenberg #wherehandstouch movie?
you can still 'shine a light on the existence of the children of color who were born and raised under Hitler' without centering it around the love between leyna and a hitler youth.
— nova (@yawnsock) September 3, 2018
This Fills Me With a Rage I Immediately Anticipated https://t.co/m1xpfYhrvP
— Lauren Rose (@liveyourlife489) September 2, 2018
8. What if she fell in love with a Jew?
you know what would have made #WhereHandsTouch so much more interesting, a jewish love interest, a female love interest, or no love interest at all. If the lesson we are supposed to get is “people of different races can love each other” then this is so unnecessary
— black seth cohen (@alexisnmss) September 3, 2018
How many different ways is Amandla Stenberg going to fall in love with a bland looking white boy on screen? https://t.co/W9C1IWLaIF
— Patron Goddess of Sorrel (@sakilegrannum) September 3, 2018
How can Amandla star in a film where a black girl falls in love with a nazi??? Sis rlly thought she was doing something by romanticising the perpetrators of one of the biggest genocides in history smh Also who was asking for this?? Especially in this political climate, I'm-
— Rochelle (@Rochelle100803) September 3, 2018
11. What if?!
Perhaps…this could have focused on her struggle in society,,instead of "forbidden romance" that humanizes nazis in a time where nazis have literally made a comeback https://t.co/nNji4Z9Ap5
— johna 🐐 🍃 (@theJEWSICIAN) September 4, 2018
12. This just made us laugh:
a tale as old as time https://t.co/sHV75F9rZl
— Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) September 4, 2018
13. It’s deeply hurtful to the victims.
this isn't the time for a romeo and juliet ww2 au. it's deeply hurtful to those who were murdered. what are we learning here, amma?
— kendra (@KengieHasFeels) August 29, 2018
14. It’s not a meme…
THE GIRL FALLING IN LOVE WITH A NAZI TEEN MOVIE IS A REAL MOVIE
I THOUGHT IT WAS A MEME
OHHHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/jXa4erimH5
— roby (@iamthatroby) September 3, 2018
15. A. wet. fart.
sounds like a wet fart https://t.co/vlz6GbOAHR
— The Honorable Judge Peter M. Coffin 🔑 (any/all) (@petercoffin) September 3, 2018
16. No, thank you.
"No. We don't want it."
– me a black Jewish girl https://t.co/eJLomx3i1h
— I'm back hoes (@Xcolorbluetooth) September 4, 2018
17. Go see Operation Finale instead!
Instead of seeing this heap of trash, go see Operation Finale this week. Watch Jews get justice. Not this garbage fire. https://t.co/0RhVQz25SH
— 🔯📚💜Esti💜📚🔯 (@Miz_STP) September 3, 2018
As an article in the Root succinctly put it: “By positing romantic love as a cure to Nazism, and by making a black girl the key to a white racists’ humanity, yet again, dehumanizes everyone else.”
Basically: this could’ve been a story of a biracial girl living in Nazi Germany. Just, don’t have her fall in love with a Nazi. Please.