Described as a satire about being a black face in a white place, Dear White People is a movie that is guaranteed to spark some controversy.
Writer/director Justin Simien follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college. Tessa Thompson stars as Sam, a biracial activist who is determined to draw attention to the racist behaviors of her peers at the Ivy League school. Sam uses her radio show as the platform to broadcast her grievances and address the racial disparities on campus. While some people applaud her efforts, many students and faculty members are turned off by her radical message and accuse her of perpetuating racism instead of ending it (She begins each show with, “Dear White People…”)
The unexpected election of Sam as head of a traditionally black residence hall sets up a college campus culture war that challenges conventional notions of what it means to be black. Outgoing head-of-house Troy Fairbanks, son of the university’s dean, defies his father’s lofty expectations by applying to join the staff of Pastiche, the college’s influential humor magazine. Lionel Higgins, an Afro-sporting sci-fi geek, is recruited by the otherwise all-white student newspaper to go undercover and write about black culture—a subject he knows little about—while the aggressively assimilated Coco Conners tries to use the controversy on campus to carve out a career in reality TV.
Dear White People explores racial identity in post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world. The film was a favorite at Sundance and won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent.
Director: Justin Simien
Writer: Justin Simien
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Kyle Gallner, Brandon P. Bell, Malcolm Barrett, Brittany Curran, Marque Richardson, and Dennis Haysbert
Dear White People opens in theaters on Oct. 17.