Dear White People
|Dear White People|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Justin Simien|
|Written by||Justin Simien|
|Music by||Kathryn Bostic|
|Edited by||Phillip J. Bartell|
|Box office||$5.4 million|
Dear White People is a 2014 American comedy-drama film, written, directed and co-produced by Justin Simien. The film focuses on escalating racial tensions at a fictitious, prestigious Ivy League college from the perspective of several black students. It stars Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell, Kyle Gallner, Brittany Curran, Marque Richardson and Dennis Haysbert.
The film premiered in competition in the US Dramatic Category at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014. The film had a theatrical release in United States on October 17, 2014. A commercial and critical success, the film profited at the box office and received positive reviews from many professional critics. It has also been nominated for and has received several awards.
Samantha White is a heritage media arts major at the fictional Winchester University, a prestigious and predominantly white school. With her sharp tongued and witty radio show Dear White People and her self-published book, Ebony and Ivy, Sam causes a stir among the administration and student body alike, criticizing white people and the racist transgressions at Winchester.
When Sam wins the election for head of house of Armstrong/Parker, the all-black house on campus, tensions rise. In winning the election, she defeats her ex-boyfriend Troy Fairbanks, the son of the school's dean. Troy harbors dreams of being a comedic writer rather than a lawyer, but his father prefers that he not give white people a chance to profile him, and will accept nothing less than his best. Coco has an issue with Sam because the reality TV producer she is trying to win over would rather do a show on the witty light-skinned black girl than her. Lionel Higgins, a black gay student, gets a chance at finally finding his place at Winchester by being recruited by the school's most prestigious student paper to write a piece on Sam and the black experience at Winchester. When Kurt, a white student and son of the school's president, and his club come up with a blackface theme for their annual party in response to Sam's outspoken show, black students appear at the party, and a confrontation ensues, leading to a brawl.
- Tyler James Williams as Lionel Higgins
- Tessa Thompson as Samantha "Sam" White
- Kyle Gallner as Kurt Fletcher
- Teyonah Parris as Collandrea "Coco" Conners
- Brandon P. Bell as Troy Fairbanks
- Brittany Curran as Sofia Fletcher
- Justin Dobies as Gabe
- Marque Richardson as Reggie
- Malcolm Barrett as Helmut West
- Dennis Haysbert as Dean Fairbanks
- Peter Syvertsen as President Fletcher
- Brandon Alter as George
- Kate Gaulke as Annie
- Brian James as Martin
- Keith Myers as Mitch
- Bryan Daniel Porter as Gordon
- Terry Hempleman as Professor Bodkin
- Naomi Ko as Sungmi
- Ashley Blaine Featherson as Curls
- Jemar Michael as Smoothe
- Courtney Sauls as Wild
Simien spent five years writing the script beginning in 2007. The next year, he made a trailer to promote and gain attention and funds for his project, which went viral. He also launched a campaign at Indiegogo to raise $25,000 but he got an overwhelming response and managed to raise $40,000 instead.
The project won IndieWire's Project of the Year title and Simien was later invited to 2013 Tribeca Film Festival to participate in Filmmaker/Industry meetings hosted by the festival. Talking about Tribeca Film Festival, Simien said that "we had a lot of meetings with a lot of studios. We had a lot of conversations with studios and distributors and basically, we decided that the best offer on the table was from an independent financier, Julie Lebedev of Code Red Films. To make it independently, that was really the dream -- because then we could make the movie we wanted to make."
Principal photography took place in late September 2013 in Minnesota, including at the University of Minnesota and other locations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and in Los Angeles, including the UCLA campus. The filming was completed in 19 days. Simien shot the film with Red Epic digital camera and said that "I would love to shoot on film. I don't believe it's completely dead, but this format made a lot of sense for our production."
Dear White People grossed $347,959 in its first weekend in only 11 theaters. It went on to earn $4,404,154 in a limited theatrical run, finishing as the 3rd highest-grossing film to come out of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 91% based on 130 reviews, with an average rating of 7.47/10. The site's critical consensus reads "Dear White People adds a welcome new voice to cinema's oft-neglected discussion of race, tackling its timely themes with intelligence, honesty, and gratifyingly sharp wit." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 79 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Justin Chang, in his review for Variety, said that the film "provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers" and praising the cast said that "Williams, Thompson, Parris and Bell all make strong, distinctive impressions, with Thompson perhaps the standout as the film’s sharpest and most enigmatic figure." Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of cast, saying, "Thompson’s conflicted student activist, which she pulls off with practiced composure. Williams manages to consistently dial up Lionel's nervousness and bewilderment throughout the film to a point of heightened tension that necessitates decisive resolution. As lovers, then rivals who must eventually seek mutual accommodation, Parris and Bell understand that for Coco and Troy, discovering humility is just the beginning of these characters' realigned journeys." He further added, "An edgy premise and memorable cast make for a potent first impression." Zeba Blay of IndieWire gave a positive review and said, "With its vividly drawn world and characters, the movie doesn’t presume to encompass the entirety of what it means to be black, but it does give one of the most entertaining and honest depictions of black life in a so-called “white” world in years." Terence Johnson of ScottFeinberg.com gave a positive review to the film and said that "Dear White People is a perfect film for today’s generation".
|Award / Film Festival||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards||Best First Screenplay||Justin Simien||Won|
|Best First Feature||Justin Simien, Effie Brown, Ann Le, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez and Lena Waithe||Nominated|
|2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival||Directors to Watch||Justin Simien||Won|
|2014 Sundance Film Festival||U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent||Justin Simien||Won|
|Gotham Independent Film Awards||Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award||Justin Simien||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Actor||Tessa Thompson||Won|
On May 5, 2016, Lionsgate announced a deal to produce a series based on the film, distributed through Netflix. This is the second Netflix original program for Lionsgate Television, following Orange Is the New Black.
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- "Watching "Dear White People" With a Bunch of White People at Sundance". Complex. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
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- Johnson, Terence (January 14, 2014). "Sundance Review: Dear White People". scottfeinberg.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
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- Justin Simien '05 wins Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay|Chapman Newsroom
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- Lawler, Richard (May 5, 2016). "Netflix orders a series based on the movie 'Dear White People'". Engadget.
- Official website
- Dear White People on IMDb
- Dear White People at Box Office Mojo
- Dear White People at Rotten Tomatoes
- Dear White People at Metacritic
- Osborne, Altamese (June 29, 2012). "Dear White People: Justin Simien's Controversial Concept Trailer Receives Both Praise and Criticism (w/ Video)". Houston Press. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- Cooper, Admiria (June 26, 2013). "'Dear White People' film explores racial identity". Frost Illustrated. Retrieved July 24, 2014.