Google+

Ensemble Comedy Examines State of Race Relations in the Ivy League

Dear White People

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Ensemble Comedy Examines State of Race Relations in the Ivy League

 

The academics are tough enough at Winchester University, a mythical Ivy League institution. It’s too bad that black students there also have to worry about making themselves comfortable socially.

113405_galThat’s precisely the predicament we find a quartet of African-American undergrads facing at the point of departure of Dear White People, a sophisticated social satire marking the directorial and scriptwriting debut of Justin Simien. Earlier this year, the thought-provoking dramedy won the Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the Sundance Film Festival.

The picture’s protagonists are as different from each other as night and day. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) is gay and uncomfortable around his own people because blacks teased him the most about his sexuality back in high school. So, he lives in a predominately-white dorm where he’s ended up being bullied anyway.

Then there’s Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), a legacy admission to Winchester courtesy of his father (Dennis Haysbert), an alumnus and the current Dean of Students. Troy’s dating an equally-well connected white girl, Sofia Fletcher (Brittany Curran), the daughter of the school’s President (Peter Syvertsen).

Political activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) sits at the other extreme, being a militant sister who lives in the all-black dorm ostensibly serving as a refuge for the “hopelessly Afro-centric.” She also hosts a talk show on the college’s radio school’s station, “Dear White People” where she indicts Caucasians about everything from their racism to their sense of entitlement.

Finally, we have Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) who just wants to assimilate into mainstream American culture. In fact, she’s more concerned with whether she might make the cut for the reality-TV show conducting auditions on campus than with challenging the status quo, ala rabble rouser Samantha.

So, the premise is set by establishing that the four lead characters have little in common besides their skin color. And the plot 113410_galsubsequently thickens when Pastiche, a student-run humor publication, decides to throw a Halloween party with an “unleash your inner-Negro” theme.

Now they share the prospect of being stereotyped by white classmates cavorting around in blackface dressed as pimps and gangstas, and as icons like President Obama and Aunt Jemima. En route to a surprising resolution, director Simien pulls a couple of rabbits out of his hat while lacing his dialogue with pithy lines (“Learn to modulate your blackness up or down depending on the crowd and what you want from them.”) and touching on a litany of hot button issues ranging from Affirmative Action to Tyler Perry.

A delightful dissection of the Ivy League that stirs the pot in the way most folks mean when they issue a call for a national discussion of race.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity, ethnic and sexual preference slurs, sexuality and drug use

Running time: 109 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Audio commentary with writer/director Justin Simien; The Making of Dear White People; “Get Your Life” music video by Caught a Ghost; deleted scenes; outtakes; Racism Insurance Skits; The More You Know about Black People (a PSA Web Series); DVRS: Black Friends When You Need Them; LEAKED: Banned Winchester U Diversity; and audio commentary with Justin Simien, and cast members Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris and Brandon Bell.

 

 

To order a copy of Dear White People on Blu-ray, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00OMCCJIS/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Entertainment

Partisan Polemic Revisits Mike Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

  Whose Streets? Film Review by Kam Williams Partisan Polemic Revisits Mike Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri On August 9, 2014, Mike Brown was shot a half-dozen times by police officer Darren Wilson on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly-black suburb of St. Louis. Because several eyewitnesses said the 18 year-old had his … [Read More its Good for You...]

Books

Book of Black Heroes

  Book of Black Heroes Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil L. Robertson, IV Foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams Just Us Books Paperback, $12.95 80 pages ISBN: 978-1-933491-21-9 Book Review by Kam Williams “The first African-American political leaders began to serve following the Civil War...Known as Reconstruction, this period … [Read More its Good For You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the … [Read More its Good for You...]

Real Estate

Real Estate: Refinancing Rates on the Rise in 2017

  Real Estate: Refinancing Rates on the Rise in 2017 by Amy Lignor   The term ‘meteoric rise’ usually applies to something fun. Think: A Hollywood actor who has been ‘discovered.’) Unfortunately, when it comes to this article, ‘meteoric rise’ is something that will not bring a smile to one’s face. To put it simply, if you wish to refinance … [Read More its Good for You...]

Lifestyle

Girls Trip! Head to South Louisiana for Food, Fishing, and Culture

  Girls Trip! Head to South Louisiana for Food, Fishing, and Culture By Craig Lamb Ah, the New Orleans French Quarter. The sound of jazz coming from Preservation Hall. The taste of fresh beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde. Art galleries and shopping. French, Creole and Cajun cultures. It all has the makings of a girl’s getaway … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Rig your Carolina Skiff for Waterfowl Hunting

  Rig your Carolina Skiff for Waterfowl Hunting By Craig Lamb Versatility is one of the benefits of owning a Carolina Skiff. Some models are known as the pickup truck of skiffs. Others are three-in-one setups for fishing, utility work, and family cruising. All the above activities are part of life in skiff country. That is the miles of … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

College Football Arriving Soon!

  College Football Arriving Soon! by Amy Lignor   Ask any college football fan and they will tell you that it seems like an eternity waiting for the season to begin. But, have no fear, the kick-off to the college season is almost here, with Colorado State and Oregon State hitting the field on Saturday, August 26th at 2:30 p.m. ET. On … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Book of Black Heroes

  Book of Black Heroes Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil L. Robertson, IV Foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams Just Us Books Paperback, $12.95 80 pages ISBN: 978-1-933491-21-9 Book Review by Kam Williams “The first African-American political leaders began to serve following the Civil War...Known as Reconstruction, this period … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Going Back in Time on the Ultimate Steamboat Vacation

  Going Back in Time on the Ultimate Steamboat Vacation by Amy Lignor   Many people love taking a cruise. But it is the river cruise on that glorious steamboat that not only offers all the benefits a big ocean liner offers, but also creates a more personalized, intimate vacation experience. It is a unique recipe: being able to witness … [Read More its Good for You...]