Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Sneak Preview into the Highly Anticipated “Dear White People” film*

“Dear White People, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has been raised to two…Sorry, your ‘weed man’ Tyrone does not count!”

Every generation has a film that shocks as it touches upon issues of race and inequalities of color. In 1950, we had the black-and-white American film noir No Way Out; in 1970, the satirical comedy Watermelon Man; in 1989, Spike Lee’s ‘fight the power’ film Do The Right Thing (1989); John Singleton’s 1991 classic Boyz in the Hood; and at the beginning of the new millennium Bamboozled (2000). In 2014, we have Dear White People a contemporary satire that is not simply another post-black film, but a commentary on expanding and updating notions of black identity.
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 Obama age. In this breakthrough performance, writer/director Justin Simien gives audiences a close look at four African American students as they navigate racial and sexual politics and campus life at the predominately white Winchester University. The four protagonists, “The Rebel,” “The Token,” “The Poster Child,” and “The Diva,” are what Simien likes to call “archetypes of people of color.” He sees them as archetypes versus stereotypes, or just simply blacks who espouse survival tactics in environments where they are in the minority or have to cope with the way people label them: “One of the things that was interesting about Dear White People is that I show these archetypes in the beginning, and we just dismantle them to a complete pulp by the end,”[1] remarks Simien.

Simien, a 31-year-old Texas native, drew direct inspiration for this film as result from his experience at Chapman University in Southern California. Being a “black face in a white place” is not just the premise of the film, but also an actual lived reality for Simien (the Black student body on Chapman University comprises 1.6 percent of the campus). As someone who has experienced much of what he portrays in the film, Simien takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to exploring the state of college campuses today and racial identity in a supposedly post-racial America, specifically, having a cinematic dialogue about what it means to be black today. Considering the past few years have been marked with numerous deaths of unarmed young black women and men, he has hopes that this film will resonate particularly with the millennial generation. According to Simien in an interview with “Best of New Orleans:
“The funny thing is that there are still people out there who believe [the U.S. is post-racial]…People say ‘do we even need this [type of film]? Aren’t we beyond this?’ After Obama was elected, there was this post-racial bubble; some liberal and very well-intentioned people thought we had overcome the struggles of racism. It took all these tragic shootings of black teenagers, and members of Congress telling Obama to go back to Africa, and racist blackface parties to bubble into mainstream for people to realize we’re still dealing with the same issues.”[2]
The film has garnered much anticipation leading up to its October 24th nationwide release, since one can view a collection of sketches, trailers, and videos under a PSA series called “The More You Know (About Black People)” some of these include:
             “Not To Be Racist, But…”     
            “Do Black People Love Fried Chicken?”     
In addition to the PSAs, sketches, and trailers, one can purchase Dear White People paraphernalia, posters, and even the book on which the film is based.
Dear White People hopes to bring laughs, while deliberately addressing casual racist attitudes of what may seem outlandish to some white Americans; for far too many African Americans, these statements represent everyday reality. For all intents and purposes, Simien wants viewers to walk out of theater with a different mindset from the one they brought into the film, and hopefully for the better. “I’m really looking at people whose past racial bubble is yet to be popped…I want this to be part of a cross-cultural conversation they’ve never had before. Our movie couldn’t have come out at a better time.”[3]
Dear White People hits select theaters this Friday October 17th and nationwide on October 24th. However, as a special bonus for the Bay Area there will be a private screening of this film on today at Shattuck Cinema Theaters.

*As posted in The Berkeley Graduate
[1] Interview from New York Times “Happy to Be Your Guide to Black Identity”: Justin Simien Goes Mainstream with ‘Dear White People’…10/9/2014…By: Nelson George
[2] Interview from Best of New Orleans, “Director Justin Simien talks about Dear White People”
[3] Interview from UPTOWN Magazine, “The One Thing ‘Dear White People’ Director Justin Simien is Sorry About”…10/13/2014…By: Angela Bronner Helm

G-Breezy's Favorite Movies

  • Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  • Die Hard series
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Fracture
  • Idlewild
  • Imitation of Life
  • Inside Man
  • James Bond series
  • Love Jones
  • Malcolm X