The trailer for the movie Dear White People has been tearing up my Facebook feed all week—and for once, I’m jazzed about the clickbait. Newbie director Justin Simien’s film received a lot of attention at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, receiving the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent. But more importantly, Simien’s wry comedy, which gained traction as a popular Twitter handle and spoofs our allegedly “post-racial” society, has got early viewers thinking and talking about race in America in a new (and refreshingly candid!) way.
The movie follows Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) of (the fictional) Winchester University, as she launches a campaign against the micro-aggressions perpetuated by her school’s predominantly white student body. Sam’s campus radio show becomes a soapbox where she begins each broadcast with a missive to her peers—hence, “Dear White People.” Her pronouncements run the gamut from cheeky (“Dear white people: please stop touching our hair. Does this look like a petting zoo?”) to more pointed (“Dear White People: the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two.”) As the show picks up fans and popularity, all of Winchester weighs in. Black and white students alike lend their support or condemnation, and a big conversational soup starts cooking.
Beyond being a sharp satire, Dear White People looks intriguing because it’s examining a wide range of points of view we rarely see. Simien has gone out of his way to include (ahem) diverse voices, in attempt to give the touchy issue of race a dynamic stage.
I say: hear, hear.
Speaking as a member of the film’s test demographic (black people who have grown up in predominantly white environments), I’m super excited about this movie. For one thing, it’s always thrilling to see unusual-for-Hollywood faces take on starring roles. For another, it looks like Simien is tackling long-taboo issues with intelligence, humor and skill. The young director described his intentions best: “I hope [Dear White People] leads you to have conversations with your black friends, your white friends, all kinds of people.”
The movie will be in select theaters this October 17th. Let’s gab about it after!
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