Stars of Sundance: Amandla Stenberg

Stars of Sundance: Amandla Stenberg

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Below, Rising Star and Social Activist Amandla Stenberg Stopped By To Promote Her New Film As You Are

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Below, Rising Star and Social Activist Amandla Stenberg Stopped By To Promote Her New Film As You Are

Photography: Charlie Engman

Styling: Emma Wyman

Text: Greg Krelenstein

In late March, on Amandla Stenberg’s Instagram account—which has arguably become more popular than any of the TV spots in which she’s costarred—a poem appeared. It begins: “1. What is the misfortune of the minority mistress? / I have understood the body of a white woman / Before I have understood my own.” Since becoming known for such parts as the young Cataleya in Colombiana and Rue in The Hunger Games, Stenberg has often voiced such transporting revelations, making her a role model for thousands of young girls. With this audience in mind, Stenberg has shied away from big budgets and misrepresentations of women of color. That’s why As You Are, the first feature film from director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte—and Stenberg’s first starring role—marks such a meaningful step in her career.

The film is set in the early 1990s, but Stenberg says the story could take place in any decade. “Angsty adolescence is a pretty universal and timeless thing. I had a huge punk phase when I was in 9th grade, so I found myself pulling from those angsty feelings that I experienced. I would go to punk venues every weekend and mosh and wear a lot of buttons on my denim jacket, everything.”

Joris-Peyrafitte Skyped with Stenberg before meeting her. “He told me the reason he cast me was I asked him a lot of questions,” she laughs. “I was almost criticizing the way he portrayed women [in the script]—asking about it. He was like, ‘Okay, you need to be in my movie.’” As You Are describes the shifting relationships between three teenagers, and although their situation is hardly uncommon when it comes to real life, mainstream teen movies don’t really go there. Stenberg could relate. “I found myself in it, being a teenager, and not necessarily knowing how you identify, and not really understanding where your feelings are coming from all of the time,” she says. “When I was reading the script I saw myself in Sarah, who was trying to find herself through her friends, but trying new things, trying to break out of the mold that she has been placed in.”

Perhaps most importantly to Stenberg, this is the soon-to-be NYU film student’s first role in an independent film. “I experienced some disillusionment with the film industry at one point,” she says, after a reaffirming trip to Sundance. “Maybe that was real disillusionment or my actual teenage angst coming through, but I just had that feeling of, Man, the film industry, it’s just about money. I really love the artwork—the making of film—and I experienced that on The Hunger Games and Colombiana, but I also wanted to have the experience of becoming instantly close to everyone on set and getting to collaborate with them. And As You Are provided that for me. It showed me that yes, this is something I can do.”

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Credits: Makeup, Hair, Grooming Erin Skipley using Dior Beauty (Cloutier Remix)  Production Sylvia Farago LTD Digital technician Jonathan Hokklo  Photo assistant Michael Tessler Stylist assistant Coco Campbell Grooming assistant Tammy Yi Equipment ACME Camera Company

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