Cannes: Protagonist Boards Amma Asante’s ‘Where Hands Touch’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Amandla Stenberg (right) stars in Amma Asante's war-time film

Sales agent Protagonist Pictures has boarded “Where Hands Touch,” the latest movie project from director Amma Asante, who won a BAFTA for most promising newcomer for “A Way of Life,” impressed with her second film “Belle,” and has just finished editing “A United Kingdom,” which stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Actress, musician and activist Amandla Stenberg, who appeared in action-thriller “Colombiana” and “The Hunger Games,” has been confirmed as the female lead in “Where Hands Touch.”

The film, which has been developed through the BFI and is produced by Asante’s Tantrum Films and Pinewood Pictures, is set in Germany during World War II and is about the relationship between a 16-17 year-old German mixed-race girl and a 19-year-old German soldier. “It’s really about two teenagers who are coming of age against a back-drop of utter madness… teenagers who are witnessing horrible, sad, devastating elements of our humanity,” Asante says.

Asante, who was born and grew up in Britain, but whose parents came from Ghana, had become keenly interested in how black and mixed-race people survived, or didn’t, in Nazi Germany. “I’m always involved in my head in stories that are to do with identity, and how we fit in, and where do we find belonging, and how do we define ourselves,” Asante says.

Casting the lead female role had been a focus of concern for her. “My worry had always been: how was I going to find a young enough actress who was also emotionally broad enough to be able to take on some of the aspects? It’s a really complex and nuanced story and where was I going to find the actress who was going to carry this film?”

Asante first came across Stenberg when the latter was at school and sent a message via Twitter asking for an interview for a project she was doing on feminism. Some years later Asante’s eye was caught by a tweet sent by Stenberg. “It just grabbed my attention. Here was this young, smart woman who was so on the money with her observations, socially and politically; she is so understanding of the intersection… what it is to be a black female,” Asante says.

Another aspect of the film is the relationships the teenagers have with their parents. “It’s an emotional piece, and it is as much a father-son and a mother-daughter story as it is any kind of love story. I never liked a single straight up love story. This is much more a story about two children whose parents are trying to get them through the war with ten fingers and ten toes intact, when they are all living in a world where it seems that may not be possible,” Asante says.

She is now casting for the lead male role, “a young man who is bearing witness to the madness, and who is having the scales fall from his eyes as he comes of age, and the difficulty in understanding the choices his country is making in order to, apparently, make a better future for him, which is the kind of rhetoric that these children were exposed to.”

Asante would like to start shooting the film in September in Wales, where she shot her first film, and on location in either the Czech Republic or Belgium “to be able to create our Berlin streets and interiors.”

Mike Goodridge, Protagonist CEO, said of the film: “It’s a unique perspective on the Nazi persecution and we believe it will be a powerful and beautiful film that will further mark her out as a great storyteller.”

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