When my close friend, Austin Zeng (279), told me about an offer from Centralizer to send writers to a movie screening organized by 21st Century Fox, my stomach churned with an unsettling feeling. I knew my parents would be against the proposition, but I decided to take that opportunity and told Austin to sign the both of us up. While my gut screamed at me not to push my parents’ luck, the rest of me was drawn to the opportunity. My entire life I had looked to movies as an escape and as a way to go on adventures away from home. This particular movie, “The Hate U Give,” was one I had been looking forward to seeing since the release of the trailer. I knew it would be a controversial movie, addressing long overdue topics like police brutality, racism, and the struggles of teenagers growing up seeing or experiences such hardships first-hand.
For almost a week I implored my parents to let me go. On the day of the screening, just as I was about to give up hope, my mom gave in and granted me permission. On the train to the theater, I drowned my chaotic thoughts with music. I was scared of having to walk thirty minutes to the theater when it was dark out, of having to get home in a far greater darkness, and of what lecture would be waiting for me once I got home. That night was the latest I had ever been out without a family member, and my heart thumped so hard against my chest that I was worried Austin could hear it.
We got there a couple minutes before the movie started and were immediately directed to a short line leading into the theater. After about ten minutes of standing in a line that was growing exponentially, the woman up front came out and announced that the theater had reached max capacity. My heart instantly dropped, and I went from being excited about my first adventure to regretting everything. She mentioned something about a “turn-away pass” that would admit us to another screening next Tuesday, but I was already sure that this would be my only chance. With each person who walked by us and through the exit, my disappointment multiplied. I fought for this opportunity, and was not going to let it slip between my fingers. I confidently walked up to the woman and told her that we were high school students who had just travelled an hour to attend the screening, high school students who were expecting reserved seats, high school students who otherwise would be stranded for the next three hours. My agitation with the entire situation was seeping out through my words and the look on her face told me she was fairly intimidated by the two teenagers in front of her. She told us to go to the front of the theater, choose a movie that was playing, and let us through into the theater free of charge. The other people who had been waiting in line had all left the theater and given up, but Austin and I were far from doing that.
We went through all of the theaters on the second floor, searching for another movie. While frantically rushing in and out of rooms, I noticed that at the end of the corridor was the screening for “The Hate U Give” and there were two adults guarding the entrance. We waited until they left, and slipped through the doors into the screening room. Waiting for us was another guard, blocking the pathway to the seats. The two of us put on our poker faces and told her that we were press invited to review the movie and were willing to stand in the back of the theater. The guard seemed reluctant at first, but we pressed on and finally she let us in. We made ourselves comfy on the theater floor at the very back. I was finally where I wanted to be and my adventure was starting.
I walked into the movie thinking that I had the entire situation figured out: that I knew the stories of both parties and I knew which was right and which was wrong. I came out realizing that I was wrong. After almost two hours of my heart racing, goosebumps littering my arms and legs, and a couple of tears, I found myself reflecting. “The Hate U Give” gave a voice to the innocent victims, to the suffering witnesses, to the brave activists, to the police who put their lives on the line, and to the children who are stuck trying to make sense of it all. The movie addresses and condemns interpersonal, individual, systemic, and institutional racism. The movie addresses and condemns those who perpetuate the stereotypes by feeding news outlets stories of gang violence and more, adding fire to what seems like an eternal flame. The movie addresses and condemns the brainwashed youth who hear one side of the story and refuse to acknowledge the other, who see walkouts as a chance to leave school and claim the title of “woke” instead of a chance to use their voices and earn such a title. Although the acting wasn’t extraordinary and the dialogue, a little goofy at times, the fact that a young adult movie touched on such important topics made me love the movie even more.
As we made our way down the steps of the theater, a woman with a microphone announced that she had a surprise for us. From the side of the theater entered an actor from the movie: Algee Smith, who played the role of the main character’s friend shot by a white police officer, sparking a shift in balance in the main character’s life. I was absolutely mesmerized. It was the first time I had seen a celebrity in the flesh and it was surreal to see him standing there. I immediately squeezed my way down the aisle and found myself face-to-face with the woman who introduced him. She refused to let us through, and I once again explained that Austin and I were press. After we let her know that we were representing Central High School’s The Centralizer, she grinned and told us she was glad to see us, informing us that if we made our way to the red carpet outside the screening room, we would be able to interview the actor personally. I was completely taken aback at the thought that high schoolers like us could be held in such high regards.
The two of us rushed to the red carpet and got in line with other writers from other prints. Algee Smith’s presence was a surprise and everybody around us was frantically attempting to piece together a logical question. Austin and I struggled to even come up with two, but our thinking went to waste when Algee Smith introduced himself to me. I was completely starstruck and almost forgot to ask the questions after I barely managed to introduce myself as well. After somehow forcing out two half-coherent questions, he thanked us and moved onto the next writer. All I could think about was how I finally got a taste of the life I had seen in all those movies.
Amaliya Yunosova (279)
Check out her interview with Algee Smith!