Dear White People
Winter 2015 Features series
Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 7:00pm
Directed by Justin Simien
Screenplay by Justin Simien
Starring Kyle Gallner, Tessa Thompson, and Tyler James Williams
Rated 14A ·
Dear White People
Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Dear White People is a sly, provocative satire of race relations in the age of Obama. Writer/director Justin Simien follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college in a sharp and funny feature film debut that earned him a spot on Variety’s annual “10 Directors to Watch.”
The unexpected election of activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) as head of a traditionally black residence hall sets up a college campus culture war that challenges conventional notions of what it means to be black. While Sam leverages her notoriety as host of the provocative and polarizing radio show “Dear White People” to try to prevent the college from diversifying Armstrong Parker House, outgoing head-of-house Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), son of the university’s dean (Dennis Haysbert), defies his father’s lofty expectations by applying to join the staff of Pastiche, the college’s influential humor magazine. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), an Afro-sporting sci-fi geek, is recruited by the otherwise all-white student newspaper to go undercover and write about black culture—a subject he knows little about—while the aggressively assimilated Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) tries to use the controversy on campus to carve out a career in reality TV.
But no one at Winchester University is prepared for Pastiche’s outrageous, ill-conceived annual Halloween party, with its “unleash your inner Negro” theme throwing oil on an already smoldering fire of resentment and misunderstanding. When the party descends into riotous mayhem, everyone must choose a side.
“Dear White People is as smart and fearless a debut as I have seen from an American filmmaker in quite some time: knowing but not snarky, self-aware but not solipsistic, open to influence and confident in its own originality. It’s a clever campus comedy that juggles a handful of hot potatoes—race, sex, privilege, power—with elegant agility and only an occasional fumble. You want to see this movie, and you will want to talk about it afterward, even if the conversation feels a little awkward. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. There is great enjoyment to be found here, and very little comfort.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)
“Simmien both mocks and provokes the nature of our seemingly progressive times by illuminating misguided assumptions and fears embedded in forward-thinking discourse. But Simien’s relentless screenplay is never too self-serious or didactic, instead pairing culturally-savvy brains with a goofy grin.” (Eric Kohn, indieWire)
“Dear White People isn’t perfect. And yet the flaws really don’t matter. This is the best film about college life in a long time, satiric or straight, comedy or drama.” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)