Starring: Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Dennis Haysbert, Brandon Bell, Teyonah Parris
Director: Justin Simien
Running time: 108mins
Dear White People has had an interesting journey from across the pond after its debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but, after a long battle between production bodies and the BFI, Dear White People has now been granted distribution in the UK and will be released in a number of cinemas across the country. I attended the UK premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema on Wednesday.
Dear White People is a satirical comedy-drama that focuses on the intertwining lives of four African-American students at the prestigious and predominantly white, Winchester University.
Here, we meet the protagonist of the film, Sam White (Tessa Thompson); the socially and culturally conscious, rebellious and highly intelligent mixed-race girl who fights against the apparent racism at Winchester. She has a radio show entitled Dear White People where she attempts to highlight all the ways in which they don’t understand the culture of black people and the struggles they go through. She has self published a book entitled Ebony and Ivy which dictates certain levels of blackness, and all while having a secret affair with her white class tutor!
DWP is funny, thought provoking and eye opening to the various stereotypes that are not only given by other races but given to ourselves.
Within the movie we meet the Rebel (Thompson), who is afro-centric and pro black despite being “only half black” and seems to demonstrate the need to over compensate for this. There is the Poster Child (Bell), who’s father pressures him to overachieve so not to fit into stereotypes that whites may give him. The fact that a “black man trying to fit in the white mans world” IS in fact a stereotype, doesnt seem to bother the father. The Token black kid (Williams) who is just around to prove a social group have an ethnic presence and the Diva (Parris); the dark skin girl with the weave and blue contact lenses who only dates white guys to escape her less than respectable upbringing.
All of these characters can ring true in various social settings and i admittedly saw elements of myself in some of them. However, the film does highlight many other truths of black and white culture and what we deem acceptable behind closed doors. Do White people harbor the need to call us niggers at any given moment if they see a group of black people doing something “black”? I would like to think not, but DWP brings new light and humour (so not to be too controversial) to the idea white people inherently look down on black people but then want to relish in all things black, except to actually be it.
The climax of the film, in which a “black face” party begins on campus, though funny to an extent of how other cultures see us; its testament to that same fact. Black culture is ghetto culture and thats how they view us. The question stands however, that if these are the only things we portray or what is put out in the media, how do we expect other cultures to think/look differently at us?
Of course for any race to turn up to a black face party covered in shoe polish or nutella and calling themselves Shaniqua is a derogative in any sense but understand there is a line between disrespecting black culture and being Miley Cyrus. She did not come up with Twerking and shes not even doing it right!
Either way, this review has turned into more of a rant lol but it still stands that Dear White People is provocative and insightful in its title and content and its depiction of racism in America. Of all places in the world, it seems to be most rife in the states but do not attempt to be fooled that as Brits we are not fighting the same battles. Its just perhaps not showcased and exploited as violently and graphically as police brutality and blatant waving of Confederate flags.
Dear White People is out now!