'The Hate U Give' spotlights racial divide with police

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Director/producer George Tillman Jr. gave us "Soul Food" and the "Barbershop" movies shot in Chicago, but he's deadly serious with his latest film that opens Friday.

"The Hate U Give" is a gripping drama where people of color are pitted against the police.

Starr lives in a struggling black neighborhood, but she's also a promising student at a mostly white, prep school. Nothing will ever be the same after she witnesses her childhood friend unjustly shot by a white police officer.

Young Starr has to decide what she'll risk for truth and justice.

"I just thought it was exhilarating to see a depiction of a character like this, multi-dimensional and had so many different aspects and areas of self because that often doesn't happen," said Amandla Stenberg, who plays Starr.

George Tillman grew up in Milwaukee, went to Columbia College and made a lot of his movies here in Chicago, but thinks this is the story of a nation.

"This could happen in any city, it happened in Ferguson, it happened in Florida, it happened here in Chicago. It's all over and we wanted to say, we must look closely and see what we can do to make changes to make things better," Tillman Jr. said.

In response to the verdict in the Van Dyke trial, Tillman Jr. said, "We feel like the verdict is a step in the right direction. That's why we wanted to make the film for people to have empathy instead of sympathy to understand why these things happen and also be able to see both sides of this."

The film is already stirring up some Oscar buzz.

"We don't think about that, we were just trying to get it right. We're just so happy, the main thing is that people have been seeing the movie," Tillman Jr. said.

"That's what we really want to really happen, to really let it hit people here, so when you can feel, when you feel things change," he said. "That's what we want to do as artists."
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