When I attended my first Sundance this past January, there was one film that stood out. It was a film that grabbed my attention and refused to let go. Mixing satire with humor and profound depth, director Justin Simien's debut Dear White People came out as a poignant, important film. As a result, I have been eagerly awaiting any potential news of the film's eventual distribution and release. Even if the film isn't likely to win an Oscar (though I wish I could be proven wrong), it not only shown the emergence of a talented new cinematic voice, but spoke to race relations in America in ways that have clarity. The incessant comparisons to Do the Right Thing are applicable. With the premiere of the teaser trailer, I now begin the more optimistic phase of my support as I eagerly await the October 17 release date.
To give a little back story, Dear White People started off as a video. It was done as satire to tell white audiences how treat black people by pointing out what was racist. It was humorous and after Simien realized that it had potential, crowd funded the film and premiered it at Sundance. The film essentially is an extension of that video with the story taking place at a fictional college where radio DJ Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) does her titular show. There's additional characters that play into broad archetypes of black culture with each having their own stories fulfilled by the end. The story serves as a reconstruction of how race should be treated in America. It is flawed, complicated, but Simien's vision has a lot of wisdom that is destined to make this an important portrait of this decade.
I won't go too much further into the plot. I am mostly excited to know that the film has been picked up and that there is a trailer to finally show everyone. I have been hyping this movie since I saw it and much like Camp X-Ray, have eagerly awaiting upcoming news about it. The trailer does a great job of capturing the tone and themes without giving away too much. I'll admit that it does come off as a little aggressively aware, but much like the opening's false sense of modesty leading to a dissection, the film subverts expectations.
Here's the trailer:
The easy thing to do is to write this off as a film specifically for black audiences. In fact, the scene in which the theater employee is getting berated is an excellent example of what to expect from the film. It doesn't constitute Tyler Perry and Big Momma's House stereotypes, it begs to change the overall landscape for better representation. Trust me, it is a great film that I cannot wait to see how the public conversation goes. It may not be as quaint as Fruitvale Station or 42 in its political agenda, but it comes packed with personality, which is its biggest success.
My biggest worry is that it won't get its fair share of recognition because of the culture and films it comments on. I am not expecting a runaway hit, but I hope that it hits the general audiences in right way. Of course, I have personal bias because I have already seen it and have been living off of that first enthusiastic experience for five months. You likely may think of it a little differently, and I am curious to see what you think. Please share your thoughts in the comments section on if Dear White People's first trailer sells you on this race relation commentary comedy.