Amandla Stenberg revisits a horrifying chapter in history in her upcoming movie, Where Hands Touch.
In the historical drama from acclaimed director Amma Asante (Belle), the Hunger Games actress, 19, plays Leyna, the 15-year old daughter of a white German mother (Abbie Cornish) and a black African father, as her character comes of age during the Holocaust. In the movie’s first trailer, exclusive to PEOPLE, Leyna forms an unlikely connection to a compassionate member of the Hitler Youth, whose father (Christopher Eccleston) is a prominent Nazi solider. As her mother tries to protect her from the atrocities of the war in 1944, Germany, Leyna is forced to forge her own path.
“She’s a character who is experiencing life at many different intersections,” Stenberg says in a featurette for the movie, also exclusive to PEOPLE. “She’s at a really weird intersection in time considering World War II, and considering who she is as a biracial girl growing up in Hitler’s Germany.”
Asante tells PEOPLE that “being born and raised in Europe, and of African descent” made her want to take on the project.
“I realized a long time ago that the histories of Black people in Europe were never really told,” she says. “Our existence at certain crucial times in history has rarely been acknowledged along with the variety of our experiences, and identities never really given prominence on the big screen.”
“Amandla’s clear-eyed grasp of the material was essential to the power of this film,” she continues. “Leyna’s journey from girl to woman is so beautifully navigated by Amandla’s intellect and talent. She plays her with a depth and a humanity that makes me so proud to have worked with her on this film.”
Where Hands Touch makes its world premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. It opens in theaters September 14.