Dear White People | Film Review
Fresh from the Sundance Film Festival, director Justin Simien’s feature debut, “Dear White People,” details the diversity woes of fictional Ivy League institution Winchester University. The film intersects multiple storylines all culminating in a near disastrous riot over a racist party whose invitations encouraged their white guests to “unleash their inner Negro.”
The main catalyst to the film’s events is Sam White (Tessa Thompson), a biracial film student, whose college radio show “Dear White People” draws ire from various students and university officials hell bent on proving Winchester as a diverse, welcoming campus.
And, of course, the truth is Winchester is anything but a post-racial haven of acceptance and diversity.
Micro-aggressions and subtle prejudices are depicted throughout, all perpetrated from the excited white students desperate to prove that they are, in fact, not racist to the blatantly prejudiced elite. Shy writer Lionel (Tyler James Williams), for instance, sports an unruly Afro and is often seen sitting uncomfortably as random white fingers grope his hair without permission.
But the greatest accomplishment of the film is its embodiment of multiple viewpoints in each of the cast’s main characters. And not once is any perspective—apart from the blatantly racist—invalidated or preached: they’re simply shown, explained, and made real with fleshed out, well-developed characters rare for a first time director to capture.
The film certainly is funny, ripe with dark, political humor and critiques (the Republican Party, naturally); however, it’s also bursting with various truisms on the entire spectrum of college life. Simien contains the almost overwhelming numbers of plotlines into a manageable, cleanly shot landscape that definitely isn’t always comfortable to watch—and that’s his point. It holds up a mirror to the audience, definitely wanting you to cringe over your own instances of clumsy cultural appropriation that most likely took place from middle school to, perhaps, your senior year.
True, the film isn’t a perfect political satire on the human condition but its flaws are eclipsed by the high caliber of the film’s storytelling. Simien, winner of the Sundance’s Breakthrough Talent award, has made a film that will be talked about for a long time to come—and rightfully so.