(Reviewed by John Glennie)
An intriguing story, based on fact, of a mixed-race girl in Nazi Germany in spring of 1944 at a time when “non-pure” Germans were called Rhineland Bastards or Hitler’s Problem. The Gestapo raid her mother’s house in their small home town looking for the daughter, but she is hidden in a gap under the floor.
The mother Kerstin (Australia’s Abbie Cornish) decides to move them to Berlin, thinking that being in such a large city they had more chance of being unnoticed. However, wherever 16 year-old Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) goes she is looked upon with contempt – even on her first day in school her teacher says “you have a good German name, but your face is so un-German”. Her aunt and uncle felt nervous when they visited in Berlin and told Leyna to use the back door when she left.
When Leyna was walking the street she stops to look at the Jews being marched through the streets on their way to the camps, a German conscript called out to her “shouldn’t you be going with them?”. She captures the eye of Lutz, also a conscript and the son of Heinz (Christopher Eccleston), a high-ranking officer, and the two fall in love – a very dangerous scenario for both of them.
Heinz does his best to keep Lutz from going to the front line and to urge him to forget Leyna. Kerstin forbids Leyna to see Lutz and manages to obtain false papers – in a hope to keep Leyna alive – stating that she has been sterilised so there is no risk of Leyna tainting the purity of German blood with another mixed-race child.
Everything goes pear-shaped when SS officers stop Kerstin and Leyna in the street, and address Kerstin contemptuously with “what was in your head when you were shaming Germany as a black man’s whore?”. Mother and daughter are separated and the distraught Leyna tries to find Lutz, only to learn he was shipped out overnight to fight in the war.
Leyna always states that she is German but is never allowed to be proud of it. At one point she sums up the war saying that all she sees it Germans killing Germans! A powerful film that highlights the plight of Jews and mixed-race Germans.
The is definitely a film worth watching – I give it a 7, but was extremely surprised to see that it only rates 5.5 on the movie database! I think it is much better than that.