This month, Amma Asante’s fourth film as director, Where Hands Touch, became available to watch for American viewers on iTunes. The film, starring Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay, had garnered controversy when its synopsis — a biracial German teen falls for a member of the Hitler Youth — became public. Asante defended the film, as did Stenberg. It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and eventually received a minor theatrical release. Its box office total is currently $67,743, according to Box Office Mojo.
All of this is to say that, despite concerns from many and an array of mixed to bad reviews from TIFF, nobody was coming for this film. It wasn’t a big enough deal for that. Our own Roxana reviewed it and didn’t face any backlash or controversy for doing so. But when it eventually became available for purchase or rental, some people did check it out and tweeted about it. One of the critics, Haaniyah Angus, live-tweeted her viewing, which went viral. She later wrote up her experience on Vulture with Hunter Harris. Check out the whole thread. It’s amazing.
Oh my god they’re fully doing a date montage OH MY GOD— niggathée chalamet (@hanxine) January 2, 2019
Asante quickly started blocking people criticizing the film, which is petty but her prerogative. But what came next was truly across the line. It soon became apparent that those criticizing the film and using clips from Where Hands Touch to do so were being issued with DMCA take-downs.
in order to “contest” this, i need to provide my full name, address, telephone number, EVERYTHING. this is so fucking unfair and horrible to film criticism— academy award winner ethan hawke (@erinsolives) January 5, 2019
It sucks that the producers of Where Hands Touch would resort to DMCA takedown notices to suppress negative tweets about their film. These underhand tactics—which combat Fair Use critiques with heavy-handed anti-piracy legislation—stifle criticism and coddle cinema.— Charlie Lyne (@charlielyne) January 5, 2019
I suppose I should have seen this coming. pic.twitter.com/s0nPfpA5FJ— Charlie Lyne (@charlielyne) January 5, 2019
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is intended to prevent unapproved use of copyrighted work but the law also clearly states that fair use must be taken into consideration. Shockingly, it is not a means to shut down people critiquing or mocking your movie. We don’t see this kind of flagrant misuse of the law to silence critics so much in written publications but it’s all the rage in audio-visual forms. YouTube is rife with stories of critics or bloggers being given DMCA takedowns by angry writers or creators, even if the rules of DMCA don’t apply. It’s a blatant abuse of power to silence critics who don’t have the backing of a publication or union in their corner. As noted above, contesting the claim also forces you to hand over personal details, and I can’t imagine how that could go wrong.
And that doesn’t even cover the nonsense of the film itself. Can we just stop romanticizing Nazis? Pretty please? Like, as a society, can we please accomplish the bare minimum and not do things like recreate the aesthetics of a rom-com for scenes in concentration camps, where a prisoner runs lovingly to a member of the Hitler Youth like it’s the airport scene in Love Actually?
The thing about going out of your way to shut down criticism is that you typically end up drawing more attention towards it. So good luck dealing with that, producers of Where Hands Touch.
Header Image Source: Vertical Entertainment