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Film / Where Hands Touch

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Where Hands Touch is a 2018 film about Leyna Schlegel, a biracial 16 year old girl living in Nazi Germany. As the child of a German mother and a black African father, she is despised by Nazi ideology, and in danger of forced sterilization to prevent her "contaminating" their gene pool. Leyna's mother Kerstin protects her by moving Leyna around, moving from the Rhineland to Berlin with her little brother Koen. Her aunt and uncle aren't happy because the association endangers them. Lenya is kicked out of school due to her ancestry, and Kerstin gets false papers showing she's already been sterilized so the Gestapo will leave them alone. Seeking to belong, Leyna starts to embrace Nazi ideology, and begins a secret romance with a Hitler Youth, Lutz, who sees past her race. Yet when Leyna becomes pregnant with their child, danger looms for them both... The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Abbie Cornish, George MacKay and Christopher Eccleston.

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  • All Germans Are Nazis: Thoroughly averted. Leyna's mother Kerstin, unsurprisingly, totally opposes Nazi ideology. Even members of the Hitler Youth like Lutz turn out to be a bit inconsistent about it (membership was mandatory, so not everyone there were true believers). Leyna's uncle has contacts with German communists, and helps to get false papers for her. To fit in, Leyna disclaims her African heritage and embraces the Nazi ideology, but naturally it doesn't work out for her, because she's not an "Aryan".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Leyna survives, along with her baby, but Lutz is killed trying to help her. She reunites with her mother and brother though. It's also noted at the end that most black Germans also survived, though many were sterilized or imprisoned.
  • Child of Forbidden Love: Leyna is this, as she's the result of her German mother's relationship with a black African soldier in the French service when they occupied the Rhineland, something that was condemned. Then her own baby with Lutz also counts, as their relationship is in fact illegal.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: Leyna just happens to be put in a camp Lutz's father runs, then he gets Lutz a job there and they meet again.
  • Disappeared Dad: Leyna's father apparently went home to Africa long before. It's unclear if he ever even knew about her. We never learn what happened with Koen's father either (but he may have been born out of wedlock like Leyna too).
  • Forbidden Love: Kerstin's past affair with Leyna's father. Leyna's romance with Lutz too. Both are condemned as a result of racism. In the latter case, it has actually been made illegal by the Nazis.
  • Guilty Pleasures: Lutz's father is a Nazi but secretly enjoys the music of Billie Holiday.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Leyna suffers from this continually, as a result of her biracial ancestry, growing up in Nazi Germany. Simply having her appearance means she constantly stands out from everyone else.
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  • Heroic Bastard: Leyna, who's a good person at heart (even if she advocates Nazism for some time) and called "bastard" as an insult at several points (mixed race Germans like her were all called "Rhineland bastards").
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When the SS demand Krestin choose between her or Leyna being taken off, she quickly offers herself. However, this only postpones Leyna's arrest.
  • Hypocrite: Lutz says when Leyna asks about the US that black people are hanged and burned there, saying he's seen it in the Hitler Youth meetings. Yet of course the Nazis feel little better about them than any white American racists, with their milder treatment only being because so few black people existed in Germany back then. Not to mention that they did the same to the Jews and others.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: This is Leyna's desire, and Kerstin also wants it for her. Of course, it's impossible under the Nazis for that to happen.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Leyna's parents' relationship was despised by many people. Her own relationship with Lutz has to be kept secret as a result of this-and worse, that it's a capital crime under the Nazi laws.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Leyna is half German and half African, the source of her fraught status in Nazi Germany.
  • Secret Police: The Gestapo are the bane of Leyna's existence, constantly harassing and tracking her down, with the ever-present threat of her being sterilized or worse just because she's black..
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Leyna and Lutz are pretty much doomed from the start, as an interracial couple in Nazi Germany. They keep things completely secret as a result. Lutz dies in the end.
  • State Sec: The SS, who are seen frequently making checks of people's papers or rounding them up. Some of them humiliate Leyna's friend Gunter (as he's secretly a Jew) then shoot him dead in the street.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Leyna demands this of her mother. She doesn't learn much however, just how he was an African soldier in the Rhineland at the time. At first, she doesn't even know he was in the French service-despite this being common knowledge, and part of the reason why the children sired by these African soldiers were so despised (plus simple racism) as they were with the occupation. His name is never even revealed.
  • Translation Convention: All the German characters speak in German-accented English, with only a few exceptions in some words. Since all the actors are native English speakers, this makes sense (though French is also spoken).
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