The highly entertaining American drama film, ‘Dear White People’ was written and directed by Justin Simien, and released in the year 2014. The film focuses on African-American students and their perspectives under the light of escalating racial issues in prestigious colleges in the United States. The movie stars Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Tyler James Williams, Brittany Curran, Dennis Haysbert, Teyonah Parris, Marque Richardson and Brandon P Bell, among many others.
Although it had its theatrical release in the United States on October 17, 2014, the movie got premiered to amazing acceptance at the Sundance Film Festival of 2014 under the US Dramatic Category.
A Brief Synopsis of the Film
Let’s now take you over its synopsis briefly, as follows:
The film’s protagonist Sam White studies at Winchester University and is majoring in mixed race film production. It’s a highly prestigious and mostly white school (when it comes to the number of fair-skinned students it has). Sam causes a major stir in the college’s student body and administration by conducting her witty and sharp tongued radio show going by the name ‘Dear White People’. This, apart from her self-published book titled Ebony and Ivory. She can be seen constantly criticizing fair skinned people and the kind of racial transgressions they indulge in at the Winchester University.
So, when Sam White easily wins the election for the position of Armstrong/Parker house, the only house on the campus that has all African-American students, tensions arise to an altogether new level. She wins the election by beating her ex-boyfriend Troy Fairbanks, who is also the son of the school’s dean. Troy has dreams of making it big one-day as a comedy writer rather than becoming a lawyer. However, his father is hell-bent upon making his career choices differently. He doesn’t want Troy to ever give white people any chance of profiling him in the future. Troy’s father wants nothing less than the best for his son and will go all out to achieve that.
Then there’s the character of Coco who seems to have a major issue with Sam White as the producer of reality television that she is trying to impress is more interested in doing a show on Sam, an amusing African-American girl (with light skin) than her. Lionel Higgins is an African-American student who is gay by sexuality and finally gets a chance of making his presence felt at the Winchester University when he gets recruited to write something on Sam and the experience of African-American students studying there, by the most prestigious and looked up to student paper of the University.
Kurt, who’s a fair skinned student and also the school president’s son comes up with a certain theme for the annual party called Blackface. This is in direct response to the outspoken show of Sam White.
Hence, a major confrontation happens, eventually leading to a fight when the African-American students turn up at the annual party.
Cast of the film:
- Lionel Higgins played by Tyler James Williams
- Samantha or Sam White played by Tessa Thompson
- Colandrea or Coco Conners played by Teyonah Parris
- Kurt Fletcher played by Kyle Gallner
- Dean played by Dennis Haysbert
- Sophie Fletcher played by Brittany Curran
- Helmut West played by Malcolm Barrett
- Troy played by Brandon Bell
- Reggie played by Marque Richardson
- Black Mitch played by Keith Myers
- Wild played by Courtney Sauls
- Annie played by Kate Gaulke
- President Hutchinson played by Peter Syversten
- Martin played by Brian Curtis James
- Sungmi played by Naomi Ko
- George played by Brandon Alter
- Coco’s friend played by Nia Jervier
- Dreads played by Jemar Michael
- Curls played by Ashley Blaine Featherson
- Gabe played by Justin Dobies
At core, ‘Dear White People’ is a highly entertaining film that presents excellent satire at some points, and dramatic instances at others. The film follows the lives of four young African-American students as they do their best to discover their identity while dealing with the various race -related issues and politics at the place of their study. The focus comes on the Armstrong Dormitory that becomes the victim of housing randomization process, in an effort to usurp the house which has long been a safe haven for the African-American minority of the college. All these events, combined with many other, lead to racial tensions in the lives of Sam, Troy, Coco and Lionel. The African-American student union does its best to fight back all such initiatives, the school paper does its best to get some scoop from the events and a producer of s reality shows does his best to get the most entertaining footage of the drama.
The first draft of the ‘Dear White People’ script came into being in the year 2012, and then its trailer came out in 2013. The trailer went viral very quickly and gained so much popularity that the Indiegogo campaign of Justin Simien helped him a lot in completing the project. ‘Dear White People’ also won the prestigious Project of the Year award of Indiewire. Furthermore, Justin got an invitation to participate in the Industry / Filmmaker meetings hosted at the Tribeca film festival in 2013 – a great leap for him as a filmmaker!
In the opinion of Justin Simien, ‘Dear White People’ is not a film that’s about white racism or for that matter any kind of racism at all. The film is more focused on the issue of identity. It talks about the differences between the responses of the mass culture in how it treats an individual because of his/her ethnic background and the kind of personality that the particular individual holds and identifies with, in reality. All such issues are explored via the microcosm of an Ivy League college that is obsessively concerned with the success in the material world.
To conclude, ‘Dear White People’ is a highly entertaining film that’ll not only entertain you, but will also leave you plenty to think about!