‘Dear White People’: Sundance Hit Raises Questions Of Continued Racism In ‘Post-Racial’ America

Dear White People is taking the film world by storm, placing racism under a glaring spotlight, using a college campus riddled with underlying racial tension as its backdrop.

Calling itself “a satire about being a black face in a white place,” the film was a breakout hit at the highly regarded Sundance Film Festival and has been garnering rave reviews ever since, particularly with the release of its “red band” trailer (video below) and just announced October 17th release date.

SF Gate reports that Dear White People writer and director, Justin Simien, first began writing the script in 2006 while a student at Chapman University in Southern California.

The Dear White People title was still years away at that point. Simien’s original working title was Two Percent, reflecting the approximate percentage of African American students at Chapman which was the inspiration for Justin Simien’s fictional Dear White People campus, Winchester University.

The title of what would evolve into Dear White People wasn’t the only thing that changed as Simien continued developing his script, but also a previously deleted scene where white students show up at a party wearing blackface.

But once again proving the old adage, “truth is stranger than fiction,” a very real student party at UC San Diego with a “ghetto” theme and dubbed the “Compton Cookout” brought Simien’s similar scenario in Dear White People back to life.

“I took the blackface party out because I thought it was too outlandish. Then when that happened at UC San Diego, I sort of rabbit-holed down the research path, (thinking) ‘Oh, I wasn’t pushing buttons. I was talking about something that actually happens.'”

dear white people, blackface students
UC San Diego students in "blackface" attending a party dubbed the "Compton Cookout" brought a deleted scene back to life in Justin Simien's film, "Dear White People."

The Sundance Film Festival wasn’t the only place Dear White People had film goers enthused. Audience after audience has picked up where Sundance left off as Dear White People makes its film festival rounds, leading up to its official theatrical release.

For Justin Simien, the response to Dear White People is, of course, a dream come true and having Variety identify him as one of its “10 Directors to Watch” and winning a special Sundance jury prize for “breakthrough talent” hasn’t been too shabby either.

Whether or not Dear White People will have equal success with its wide release in “post-racial” America remains to be seen. But for Simien, Dear White People seems to have sprouted wings and taken flight on its own, becoming another piece in the cinematic history of African American Film.

“I always felt like this conversation had a very pop sensibility to it,” Simien told SF Gate. “I think Dave Chappelle set us up. I think Spike Lee set a path back in the ’80s and ’90s. I was like, why hasn’t anyone done a movie like this? I was surprised that I’m one of the first to sort of head-on take on that issue.”

Dear White People has been given an R rating, as has the Dear White People film trailer, thus the trailer’s “red band” designation. A red band trailer can only be run in theaters before R-rated, NC-17 rated, and unrated movies. But of course outside of theaters the internet offers myriad ways red band trailers can be seen.

That said, please be forewarned that the YouTube posting of the Dear White People trailer below is, again, a red band trailer.

[Images via YouTube and Rollout.com, video via YouTube]