I was a huge fan of the teaser trailer for Dear White People that debuted last month. As somebody who loves to critique and analyze all forms of media, it was good to see some racial stereotypes/tropes get called out in the teaser. Considering that Dear White People won this year’s Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, there’s a lot to look forward to in the film beyond its lack of fear to discuss racial tension, especially in the setting of a predominantly white college.
While the trailer focuses a bit more on Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), an outspoken black activist ready to take white people to task on her radio show, the aptly-named “Dear White People,” the film also touches upon other characters, including the dean’s son Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell) and his involvement on the school’s comedy paper, Pastiche; Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), a self-described geek who’s recruited to write about black culture for the school paper despite not knowing much about it; and Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris), a student exploiting all of the racial controversy to jumpstart a career in reality TV.
Dear White People will open in theaters on October 17th. You can read the film’s official synopsis below.
Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Dear White People is a sly, provocative satire of race relations in the age of Obama. Writer/director Justin Simien follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college in a sharp and funny feature film debut that earned him a spot on Variety’s annual “10 Directors to Watch.” When Dear White People screened at MOMA’s prestigious New Directors/New Films, the New York Times’ A.O. Scott wrote, “Seeming to draw equal measures of inspiration from Whit Stillman and Spike Lee, but with his own tart, elegant sensibility very much in control, Mr. Simien evokes familiar campus stereotypes only to smash them and rearrange the pieces.”
The unexpected election of activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) 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. While Sam leverages her notoriety as host of the provocative and polarizing radio show “Dear White People” to try to prevent the college from diversifying Armstrong Parker House, outgoing head-of-house Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), son of the university’s dean (Dennis Haysbert), defies his father’s lofty expectations by applying to join the staff of Pastiche, the college’s influential humor magazine. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), 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 (Teyonah Parris) tries to use the controversy on campus to carve out a career in reality TV.
But no one at Winchester University is prepared for Pastiche’s outrageous, ill-conceived annual Halloween party, with its “unleash your inner Negro” theme throwing oil on an already smoldering fire of resentment and misunderstanding. When the party descends into riotous mayhem, everyone must choose a side.
Dear White People is written, directed and produced by Justin Simien. The film stars Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris,” Peeples), Tessa Thompson (For Colored Girls, “Veronica Mars”), Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street, CBGB), Teyonah Parris (“Mad Men,” They Came Together), Brandon P. Bell (“Hollywood Heights”), Malcolm Barrett (The Hurt Locker), Brittany Curran (“Chicago Fire”), Marque Richardson (“The Newsroom”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24,” Far From Heaven).