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The Hate U Give

Maverick (Russell Hornsby), an ex-con who now owns a convenience store, lines up his three kids, 16-year-old Starr (Amandla Stenberg), her older half brother, Seven (Lamar Johnson), and their little brother, Sekani (TJ Wright), to give them “the talk” about how to stay alive if they are ever stopped by the police. Their mom, Lisa (Regina Hall), is a nurse who sends them to a mostly white prep school several miles from their poor neighborhood. Starr struggles to live in two worlds: the one at home with her family, friends, and church—and her life at school where they listen to different music and speak differently.

One night, Starr is at a party when shots ring out. She leaves right away with Khalil (Algee Smith), her childhood friend. A white policeman pulls them over and orders Khalil out of the car. When the young man reaches back into the car to grab his hairbrush, the cop shoots and kills him. Starr is traumatized by Khalil’s death. She decides to keep it a secret from her school friends, especially her boyfriend, Chris (KJ Apa). But the story soon goes national. The media blames Khalil because of his connections to drugs and gangs, though no drugs were found in the car. Starr’s secret weighs on her as she searches for her own identity as a young, black teen torn between two worlds.

Starr is the secret witness who is to testify at the trial of the cop. When the gang finds out, they threaten the family with violence. Lisa, Starr, and Sekani go to stay with their Uncle Carlos (Common), a black cop who tries to explain the officer’s point of view.

The Hate U Give is based on the 2017 young adult novel of the same title by Angie Thomas. Director George Tillman Jr. evokes powerful performances from the actors. The film should be credited for presenting a strong father image through Hornsby’s compelling performance, while Stenberg is convincing and vulnerable. This is an honest film that explores what it is like to be black in a world where white people have the power.

Not yet rated, PG-13 • Strong language, violence, peril.


SmallfootSmallfoot

High up in the Himalayan Mountains, a powerful Yeti, Stonekeeper (Common), maintains power over his community. His strongest message is that when they have questions, they should “push them down” so that they will go away. Migo (Channing Tatum), however, comes across evidence that Smallfoot (human beings) really exist. Migo has a scientific mind and is determined to find out the truth. Stonekeeper casts him out of the community for this. Soon he encounters his Yeti friends Meechee, Stonekeeper’s daughter (Zendaya), and three others gathered as a secret society, the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society, or SES.

To his delight, just below the clouds, Migo discovers a beautiful snow-covered valley with lots of Smallfoot creatures. At the same time, Percy (James Corden), a TV wildlife host down on his luck, comes upon him. Migo is thrilled to meet Percy, who is terrified at first. Migo wraps him up in a sleeping bag and takes him back up the mountain to show the others.

With evidence in hand, Migo confronts Stonekeeper with the truth and shows the Smallfoot to the enthralled community. But Stonekeeper reveals the truth behind their isolated exis-tence to Migo: It is the only way to keep them safe from the violent and aggressive Smallfoot creatures, who want to destroy them. The SES members take matters into their own hands and decide to meet the humans once and for all.

This 3-D animated film is about racism in its most basic form: Two different groups of creatures are unable to communicate and therefore fear one another. The film is very entertaining, yet it is a complex story that offers hope to teens and adults.

A-2, PG • Peril.


On Her Shoulders
On Her Shoulders

Nadia Murad, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, is a 23-year-old Yazidi woman from Iraq. During the Yazidi genocide in 2014, she was captured by ISIS and held as a sex slave until her escape months later. Most of her family died in the genocide. This new documentary by filmmaker Alexandria Bombach follows Nadia as she gives speeches to human rights groups around the world. Her goal is to motivate countries to help free the thousands of women and children who remain captives of ISIS.

The Yazidi are a Kurdish religious minority that ISIS is determined to exterminate. Killing the male population puts the future of the Yazidis at stake. Even though different countries take in small groups of the people as refugees, they are separated from one another, and their culture is in danger of disappearing. Nadia, through relentless advocacy for her people, hopes to reunite them. Even with human rights activist Amal Clooney as Nadia’s attorney, who accompanies her to speak at the United Nations Security Council, it is hard to interest governments and politicians in their cause.

The audience walks with Nadia. We feel her loneliness and fatigue. Yet she is hopeful and unstoppable. On Her Shoulders shows that it is not enough to be polite in the face of genocide. We must care and act.

Not yet rated • Mature themes, descriptions of war crimes.


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