TIFF 2018: Where Hands Touch

17th September 2018

You know those kinds of movies where you become acquainted with strangers sitting around you, because no one can help but gasp aloud or keep words from escaping their mouths? Introducing,Where Hands Touch by writer and director Amma Asante.
The end credits start to roll in; the room is full of mixed emotions and you can feel a slight heaviness from the crowd. I go straight to grab a pen to make sure I took a strong note of all the feelings that had rattled me in the last two hours. I was deeply moved, shockingly educated and a touch disappointed too. But, I didn’t really need to record my feelings as quickly as I did, because watching a film like Where Hands Touch lingers with you, and rightly so. This is meant to impact your heart and widen your eyes whilst telling an affectionate love story to hopefully keep your emotions well-balanced. Nice try!
A fictional storyline based on the very true conditions of Nazi Germany during the 1944 World War. Asante avidly tries to amplify a tone for us on how it would have been for the women, children and black people during this horrific time period.
Young and mix-raced beauty Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) is a fiercely independent young teenage girl who was born in Germany to a white German mother and a black African father. Her remarkable mother (Abbie Cornish) is determined to hide the fact (through lack of legitimate paperwork) that her daughter hasn’t been sterilized, (prevented from having children) that she hides her under the dark floorboards from the Nazi army that terrorizes the streets each night. Knowing it can’t continue like this, she moves herself, Leyna and son from their rural surroundings to Berlin, in the hopes of becoming much more discreet.
We quickly realize that there really isn’t anywhere to hide from the brutal realities of World War II. Terror, intimidation and assassination on every corner, Jews hunted like animals; black people cruelly singled out and questioned about their birthright and families separated. So when Leyna locks eyes with the a young man in uniform from the Hitler’s Youth, who also happens to be the son of an top officer, she adds even more jeopardy and risk to an already dangerous situation by choosing love over safety.

When Hands Touch Candid Magazine
Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay in ‘When Hands Touch'.

As the film goes on, it shifts from the streets of Berlin into the women’s labor camp, which I personally didn’t have much knowledge of. As gut wrenching as it was to watch I’m glad I’ve become more aware of this history, but the violence towards these poor women and the fate that many of them received is unimaginable, the movie doesn’t hold back in enlightening you with that.
Not meaning to put off audiences from seeing it, on the contrary I would say that I think it’s an important film to see for its historical perspective, but its just you will need to have a tolerance to really terrible fake German accents, violence and awkward teenage ‘coming of age’ romance.
The love story is rather endearing, effervescently risky and juvenile, the historical re-telling is barbaric if thought-provoking and the cinematography, stunning music, costumes and overall depitction of this war-ridden era is extraordinary. And when watching the trailer, do not assume this love story between Leyna and Lutz (George MacKay) will soften the situation… it simply won’t.
Where Hands Touch is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018.

Words by Lisa Coleman @Lisa_D_Coleman
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