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New Release Review - DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (DVD)

A group of black students examine their place at a predominantly white university.


Review by Emily Craig (@emillycraig)

Directed by: Justin Simien

Starring: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris, Dennis Haysbert




"It’s refreshing to watch a film that could make white people feel like outcasts, a feeling African Americans know all too well. Dear White People is a promising first film from director Justin Simien."




Dear White People is a satirical drama/comedy which focuses on several African American students from the fictional Winchester University, a predominately white school. The film concentrates on the racial separation in the University in a post Obama society where racial discrimination is supposedly at its minimum.
Samantha White (Tessa Thompson, Selma), a strong-willed student who runs a radio show at the University named Dear White People, criticizes white people on what she believes to be subtle racism, for example “dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism.” Sam opts to run for head of the Armstrong/Parker house (an all white house at the University) and surprisingly triumphs, winning over her fellow students. In doing so, Sam beats her ex-boyfriend Troy (Brandon Bell), the University Dean’s (Dennis Haysbert, 24) son, who tells his father he wants to be a lawyer but would much rather be writing jokes and smoking marijuana. Other characters include Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams, The Walking Dead), an out of place black homosexual student who finally finds his calling in writing a piece about black people in the school for the student paper. There is also Coco (Teyonah Parris, Mad Men), a YouTube star dying to win the heart of a TV producer, only to find out he is more interested in Sam’s story for a reality TV show.
Dear White People is full of incredibly witty dialogue, written so well it's almost poetic in a sense; unfortunately this makes the film unrealistic, as the dialogue doesn’t seem like it would be spoken by a bunch of University students. If you can get past this out of place stylistic dialogue, then the film is worth a watch; it manages to discuss the taboo of racism without being overly offensive, a topic heavily neglected in the film world. At times, the film gets slightly whiney and becomes a slanging match against different races but I think that this is the director’s (Justin Simien) intention. It’s refreshing to watch a film that could make white people feel like outcasts, a feeling African Americans know all too well.
What this film really succeeds in is its well thought out characters; the polar opposites just bounce off each other to create a harmonious plot. The acting is strong and holds Dear White People together; Williams as Lionel and Thompson as Sam ooze talent in their convincing roles. The film is over-complicated with too many subplots, which could lead to viewers losing attention before it even hits its peak. That being said, it’s a daring subject which has gained applause from critics, and includes an explosive finale which is executed extremely well; it is for the most part a promising first film from director Justin Simien.



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